10 Little-known benefits of hand massages

Yewande Rolph 19 July 2022

Yewande Rolph, founder of award-winning wellbeing company Natural Fragrance Company Limited, shares some of the lesser-known benefits of hand massages

We all know about having luxury pamper sessions with a hand massage as an occasional treat. However, hand massages should be very therapeutic, not just for holidays.

A hand massage can be very useful because hands are so accessible. Even though hands are used all the time, they are often neglected. Our hands are inherently sensitive and have many nerve endings. It is estimated that there are a total of about 17,000 touch receptors and free nerve endings in the palm.

"Even though hands are used all the time, they are often neglected"

A lot of people may not have time, funds or opportunity to get a full body massage. Gentle pressure on the hands can be useful to help de-stress & calm a person. A full body massage cannot be performed on people with certain conditions. For example, if a person has a heart problem, it is not advisable to have a full, vigorous body massage. A gentle hand massage in this case is considered safe. No special equipment is necessary for, say, a 15-minute hand massage, which can be performed as part of a pleasant self-care routine. 

A skilful hand massage brings with it many benefits.

1. Reduce pain associated with arthritis

Regular hand massages have been reported to lower pain associated with arthritis symptoms. A hand massage may be able to offer relief from the discomfort and lack of mobility associated with arthritis.

Woman with arthritis

I received some funding to go to a seniors’ day care centre to do hand massage on older adults. One of the ladies there reported that a relative who had not seen her for about 6 months noticed significant improvement in the appearance of her hands! I had been doing weekly hand massage on her hands for only six weeks—which was amazing.

2. Soothe and soften tired and overused muscles

Gentle, skilful and effective hand massage has been known to rest and relieve muscles that are constantly used. Massaging will also help to prevent repetitive strain injuries for anyone who has worked on computers for a long time.

3. Moisturise and improve the condition of the skin

During a hand massage, when a nourishing, effective moisturiser is applied, the texture of dry skin on the hands can be noticeably improved. A good moisturiser also protects the skin from water loss.

4. Release endorphins

Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers—if we hit an object by accident, we instinctively put our hand over the area to stroke it. This action automatically releases the body’s natural painkillers to the affected area.

5. Promote deeper relaxation, thus improving sleep

Woman having a good night's sleep

During a restful hand massage, relaxing pressure points are activated. One study in 2011 resulted in the hand massage group having better sleep than the control group in a four-week period. 

When we are relaxed, we are more likely to foster an atmosphere of creativity, fun, enjoyment, joy and lightness.

6. Improve circulation by pumping oxygen into the hand

Gently pulling the fingers, rotating the wrists, stroking the skin boosts circulation, especially for sedentary folk. Hand massage is also useful to warm cold hands, especially in the winter.

7. Reduce anxiety

A 15-minute hand massage conducted by volunteers on people waiting for surgery reduced anxiety and increased satisfaction with the service patients received. 

"There is a saying that a problem shared is a problem halved!"

I have noticed that during treatment, people often felt that they could communicate their true feelings pertaining to a situation they may be worried about. For example, a lady once offloaded that she was concerned about the high cost of servicing her car. There is a saying that a problem shared is a problem halved!

8. Relief from stress

It has been suggested by Dr Robert Tisserand that up to 90 per cent of disease may be stress related. Relaxing hand massages have been known to counteract stress related responses of flight, fight or freeze.

heart health

Relaxation is also good for heart health. Constant stress is detrimental to the heart. Sudden stressful shocks can lead to bursts of adrenaline that may keep the heart from functioning well. 

9. Better clenching strength

Various studies have shown that after a hand massage treatment, the subjects reported stronger grip in their hands. The results suggested that as well as increased strength in their grip, they also had more endurance

10. Increase in feel-good factors for octogenarians

A published study in 2014 measured positive factors after hand massage sessions in ladies about 84 years old. Compared to the control group, those that had received hand massage reported more statistically significant positive feelings

This piece was originally published by the wellness and online talks platform Mirthy. Reader's Digest have teamed up with Mirthy to provide free access to online events and classes. Sign up today to gain access to over 100 classes every month and claim your first free credits.