Natural Killer to the rescue! Massage proven to improve immune system function

According to a recent study entitled “Breast Cancer Patients Have Improved Immune And Neuroendocrine Functions Following Massage Therapy”, massage is clinically proven to improve mood, anxiety and immune function.

A group of woman with breast cancer were given regular massages and had their blood, urine and mood were tested before during and after 12 weeks of regular massage. One finding was a increase in Natural Killers (NK)  whitle blood cells. NK cells are a form of lymphocytes and part of the innate immune system. The innate immune system non specific threats that come into play immediately after the antigen has been identified in the body. This is the font line defense of your immune system. The adaptive immune system learns from viruses and remembers them.

NK cells are literally down there in the trenches fighting off infection and disease as soon as they can. NK cells play a major role in “host rejection” of tumors and virally infected cells.

NK cells are accredited (basically it’s magic) of being able to kill a virus inside a cell. Their job is to hold the virus at bay until the adaptive immune system can produce the antigen that will fight the infection.

What makes NK cells so interesting is their ability to adapt to their environment several experiments have shown that NK  cells can play a double role as part of the adaptive immunological function as they are very good at adapting to their environment and producing formulate antigen-specific immunological memory.  This is critical for responding to the second threat from an antigen.

NK  cells are being widely studied in cancer research due to their unique properties.

Several other things were studied including mood, serotonin and dopamine levels. It may not as surprising that patients received a uplifting of mood, a natural increase in dopamine levels and less feelings of anger or hostility. Listed below are additional findings of the report.

The immediate effects were:

  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improvement in mood
  • Less feelings of anger

The longer term effects were studied with blood and urine samples as well. There are several hormonal changes as well as mood. The longer term effects of regular massage are:

  • Reduced depression and hostility
  • increased urinary dopamine
  • increased serotonin values
  • Increase in Natural Killer number and lymphocytes (white blood cells)


So, just to summarize:

Massage improves your immunity against pathogens, naturally (without drugs) improves your mood both chemically and emotionally, feels good and helps decrease pain. Count me in.



By Pdeitiker – Own work, Public Domain,


1. Hernandezreif, M. (2004). Breast Cancer Patients Have Improved Immune And Neuroendocrine Functions Following Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 45-52.