Maintaining Long-Term Bone Health with Thai Massage

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Last week on the blog, we discussed some of the dietary choices that you can make to alleviate symptoms of menopause. This week, we will be discussing another cause for concern among women who are getting older: bone loss. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), peak bone mass for most women occurs around age 30. After that, the pace at which old bone is removed starts to exceed the pace at which new bone is formed, leading to an overall net loss in bone density.

This means that your bone density will inevitably start to decline in your thirties, but the rate of bone loss will increase when you hit menopause. The rate of bone loss speeds up even more  during your postmenopausal years — in fact, for most women, the rate of bone loss is the fastest in the first few years after menopause. That puts older women at especially high risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis.

As you probably know, there are lots of things that you can do to slow the rate of bone loss and reduce your risk of osteoporosis, such as engaging in weight-bearing exercise and increasing the levels of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. However, one option that you might not have heard about is Thai massage. Read on to learn more about the research behind using this unique massage modality can help combat osteoporosis in older women.

Understanding the Research Linking Thai Massage and Bone Health

Thai massage has been around for thousands of years, and it has long been recognized within the healthcare community as a valuable treatment option. This  unique massage modality — which is essentially an assisted yoga session — offers a wide range of health benefits, such as relieving joint pain, relaxing tense muscles, improving breathing, and even lowering blood pressure. However, it was not until 2013 that researchers from a hospital in Thailand published a study in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal providing evidence-based support for this claim.

The researchers hypothesized that Thai massage could stimulate bone formation because, in many ways, it is similar to the “mechanical loading” of weight-bearing exercise, which has been shown to promote bone formation in older women. When the therapist manipulates the body through various poses, it exerts mild pressure on the body every 1 to 2 seconds for about 90 minutes. Recognizing that this could induce strain on the skeleton in much the same way as a light weightlifting session or a long walk, the researchers proposed that Thai massage might be able to promote bone formation.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers conducted a randomized crossover trial with the goal of exploring the skeletal effects of Thai massage on bone formation in aging women. Their sample population included 48 postmenopausal women who had volunteered to participate. The women in the study were exposed to a control period, in which they experienced no massage, and also a 4-week experimental period, in which they got a two-hour Thai massage, two times per week. After each period, the researchers measured the level of a biochemical marker for bone formation.

When the researchers controlled for age and height, they found that there was a statistically significant increase in the levels of the biochemical marker after the 4-week experimental period in which the women received regular Thai massage, especially for women with smaller body builds. While the researchers did recognize that future trials with large sample populations would be beneficial, these findings provide compelling evidence that Thai massage can help promote bone formation in some women.

What the Results of the Study Mean for You

Thai massage may not be a miracle cure for osteoporosis, but it can be a great addition to a health plans that includes a wide range of evidence-based strategies for supporting bone health. If you have never tried Thai massage, the new year presents a great opportunity to make a change. Improving your health is always a great New Year’s Resolution, and giving Thai massage a try could be a fun and rewarding way to start 2018 off right. Plus, most people who try Thai massage really enjoy the experience!

It is important to note that Thai massage isn’t just for women — and neither are concerns about bone health. While it is true that bone density declines more quickly in women, bone loss is also a significant concern for older men. Even though the participants in the research study were all women, the same scientific logic of “mechanical loading” to promote bone formation applies to everyone, including men.

 

Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers Thai massage, as well as a variety of other massage modalities. We also offer a variety of nutritional supplements that can support healthy aging, including vitamin D for bone maintenance. Contact us today to learn more about all of our products and services!

 

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