A friendly touch can do wonders for boosting your mental health.
What is Massage for Depression and Anxiety?
a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
feelings of severe despondency and dejection.“self-doubt creeps in and that swiftly turns to depression”
Massage therapists use arm, hand, fingertip, and elbow pressure to treat physical and emotional problems. The word massage comes from the Arabic word mass’h, which means “press gently.”
What traditional medicine says: Therapeutic massage was first described in China about 2,500 years ago. Around 400 BC, the Greek healer Hippocrates used massage to treat sprains. Most of the world’s medical systems, including Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurveda, developed their own versions.
What we know: Researchers at the University of Miami followed 37 breast cancer patients who received massage therapy or practiced progressive muscle relaxation for five weeks. Women in the massage group reported feeling less depressed and angry, and they had more energy. In a University of South Florida study of high blood pressure patients, those who got 10-minute massages three times a week for three weeks lowered their higher number by 11 points.
What new research shows: A review of more than a dozen massage studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine concludes that massage therapy relieves depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry. In a series of studies including about 500 men, women, and children with depression or stress problems, researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in participants before and immediately after massage and found that the therapy lowered levels by up to 53%. (Cortisol can drive up blood pressure and blood sugar levels and suppress the immune system.) Massage also increased serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.
It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage therapy can be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression.
One definition of depression can be found in the dictionary as “a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason.”1
Not all people with depressive illnesses will have the same symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health states, “The severity, frequency and duration of symptoms will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.”3
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment3
Depression can be an expensive and devastating condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control,”Depression can adversely affect the course and outcome of common chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Depression also can result in increased work absenteeism, short-term disability, and decreased productivity.”2
The CDC has found that depression affects 1 in 10 adults in the US.2 Those that are most affected are: “persons 45-64 years of age, women, blacks, Hispanics, non-Hispanic persons of other races or multiple races, persons with less than a high school education, those previously married, individuals unable to work or unemployed, and persons without health insurance coverage.”2
The CDC also recommends “collaborative care, an approach that involves the collaboration of primary care providers, mental health specialists and other providers to improve disease management for adults with major depression on the basis of strong evidence of effectiveness in improving short-term depression outcomes.”2
Research indicates massage can:
- in those with chronic pain6
- in those with chronic pain over time6
- in hospice patients7, 18
- in children with cancer8
- in children with HIV9
- in pregnant women10, 25
- associated with lower back pain11,12
- in those with tension-type headaches13
- in children and adolescent psychiatric patients15
- in women with breast cancer16, 17
- in people with chronic disease19
- in adolescent mothers20
- in those with chronic fatigue syndrome21
- in those with high blood pressure22
- in those with fibromyalgia23
- in adults with multiple sclerosis24
- in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder26
- in women in labor27
Reduce trait anxiety and depression with a course of treatment providing benefits similar in magnitude to those of psychotherapy14
Stress is an inevitable part of life. It is almost impossible to take away all the stress and anxiety we may feel on a day-to-day basis. Research suggests that more than 90 percent of illness results from stress alone. Decreasing physical and emotional stress is optimal to improving overall health and well-being.
A 60-minute massage can lower cortisol, a hormone that’s produced in response to stress, by an average of 30 percent. And when cortisol levels decline, serotonin — one of the body’s anti-pain mechanisms — increases by an average of 28 percent after receiving a massage. By lowering cortisol and increasing serotonin, you’re boosting your body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness.
The emotional balance massage provides can be just as vital and valuable as the physical benefits. Massage provides a safe and nurturing place for individuals to relax, refocus and find clarity. It can increase awareness of the mind-body connection. Massage can generate confidence and enhance self-image and self-worth.
Safe nurturing touch helps fulfill the need for human contact, such as the comforting touch we once received at birth. For some, massage is the only caring touch they may receive. Massage can be considered an hour-long hug, providing you with a nurturing safe place to rest physically and emotionally.
I provide massage for many clients who are living with anxiety and depression, and the day-to-day symptoms those feelings bring. Most of them find relief after receiving massage, saying they are able to feel more relaxed and calm, and feel a sense of worth.
My focus as a licensed massage therapist is deep-relaxation therapeutic massage. I listen to my patients’ needs, and together, we create a treatment plan that works toward decreasing the symptoms that come with anxiety and depression. Many clients want to feel a sense of hope — therapeutic massage may help support you on your journey.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.