Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Massage Therapy For Anxiety And Depression

Is Massage Therapy A Good Treatment For Anxiety And Depression

YFM Episode 3 – Massage Therapy for Anxiety, Depression, Cancer Fatigue


Editors note: Some instances of anxiety and depression may be debilitating or life-threatening. This article is not intended to encourage massage therapy over professional mental health help and/or the treatment of a licensed mental health professional.

Many people may feel anxiety at some point in their lives. Persistent anxiety may be a symptom of a mental health issue, such as depression or generalized anxiety, or the result of other external factors, such as major life changes, traumatic experiences, or certain medications.

Stress is often a cause rather than an effect, and anxiety can be one of the many effects of living in a stressful environment. Many people may experience momentary anxiety from stressors such as a car swerving into their lane on the highway, but people who experience chronic anxiety may describe feeling worried about relationships, family, school, work, health, and money long after a triggering moment has passed. Additionally, its not uncommon for people who experience depression to report symptoms of anxiety, including irritability, nervousness, poor concentration, and insomnia.

Impact Of Massage On The Hypothalamic

A myriad of small studies of massage have measured either salivary or plasma cortisol levels. Many of these studies investigated only single time-point measures of cortisol before and after a series of massage interventions. The consensus of existing meta-analyses as well as of this review is that massage tends to decrease measures of plasma and salivary cortisol versus either a wait-list or a no-treatment condition . However, in general these studies have not looked at the sustained impact of massage after cessation of treatment. Rapaport and colleagues have compared and contrasted the impact of a single 45-minute session of manualized Swedish massage with that of a manualized light-touch control condition in adults with no psychiatric disorder. They sampled cortisol, oxytocin, vasopressin, and adrenocorticotropic hormone after a 30-minute accommodation period at two points before initiation of massage or touch and then at several time points during the hour after the intervention. These authors found that a single session of either massage or touch was associated with a small effect-size decrease in cortisol levels in healthy young participants as well as a large effect-size increase in oxytocin in both groups. However, compared with changes found in cortisol and oxytocin, the massage group showed a profound significant decrease in vasopressin compared with the touch control group.

Best Type Of Massage For Anxiety

There are countless different massage types and techniques. If youve ever been to a facility that offers massage, you have probably seen something that looks a bit like a menu when it comes to what they have available for choices. It can be overwhelming when trying to decide which type of massage to get. When it comes to the best massage for anxiety, there are a few that seem to provide the best results.

Swedish massage

Swedish massage is the most common form of massage therapy. There are combinations of movements used to relax the body and provide relief from stress.

Hot stone massage

When hot stone massage techniques are used, it allows the body to relax but not drift away because of the heat of the stones. Your muscle tension is released, the body calms down, and anxiety symptoms are alleviated as a result.

Shiatsu massage

Shiatsu massage focuses on specific points on the body and comes from ancient Japanese techniques. The purpose is to restore the balance of energy in the body. People that have received Shiatsu massage have reported stress relief.

Thai massage

Through Thai massage, your therapist will move your body around in poses that are similar to the ones that you see in yoga. It gives the body an energy boost yet relaxes you for better overall well-being and health.

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Why Does Massage Therapy Relieve Anxiety And Depression Symptoms

Many people with anxiety and depression can reduce the severity of their symptoms by engaging in activities that help increase focus on the present moment. This is a practice called mindfulness, which may be one of the reasons massage therapy and bodywork can effectively benefit a persons mental health. Studies on mindfulness practice have noted its positive application for a wide range of conditions, from fibromyalgia to anxiety and depression.

Eckhart Tolle, an internationally recognized expert on mindfulness, recommends paying attention to all five senses, such as the feel of your breath, the smell of the air, the sounds around you, or the color of the walls. A massage therapist with experience using mindfulness techniques to treat anxiety and depression may be able to help you with this process. Because sense perceptions happen in the moment, people with anxiety and depression can reset their mental and emotional habits by deeply feeling their immediate experiences. This practice leaves little room for the mind to wander to past regrets and future troubles.


  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America. . Understand the facts: depression. Retrieved from
  • Berger, F. . Generalized anxiety disorder. National institutes of health: U.S. national library of medicine. Retrieved from
  • Tolle, E. . The Power of Now. Vancouver: Namaste.
  • How Can Massage Therapy Help Relieve Depression

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    When your muscles and connective tissues become stiff or rigid, it can cause pain and limit your movement. Massage therapy can help relieve this tension in your muscles and connective tissues. It also increases your blood flow and promotes relaxation.

    If you have depression, massage therapy probably wont cure your condition. But it may help relieve the physical symptoms associated with it. For example, massage may help alleviate sluggishness, back pain, joint pain, and muscle aches. It can also help relieve fatigue and sleeping problems.

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    The Physiological Science Behind Massage As Therapy

    Massage, when used as a holistic treatment method within a comprehensive mental health program spanning a variety of treatment modalities, can be greatly beneficial and serve your mental health in a variety of ways proven by science:

    • Massage can levels by up to 50% after just a thirty-minute session. Consistently high cortisol levels can negatively alter the brains structure and level of functioning and directly contribute to the onset of anxiety by destroying neurons in the hypothalamus.
    • Massage simultaneously increases levels of both dopamine and serotonin by up to 30% after a thirty-minute session. Dopamine deficiency has been linked to low levels of motivation and an inability to feel pleasuretwo of the most common symptoms of depression.
    • Massage can boost lower-than-normal blood pressurea symptom often associated with adrenal fatigue, anxiety, and depression due to poor circulation and blood flow.

    As beneficial as massage has been proven to be for mental health disorders and for overall improved health, it is important to remember that it should be used as a holistic supplement to evidence-based treatments and therapynot as an alternative.

    Selection Of The Studies

    The search strategy and the selection and quality rating of the relevant studies were carried out and analysed separately by two persons in a first step and jointly synthesised and discussed in a second step. The studies that had been found were selected according to the inclusion criteria and the quality criteria of the Jadad Score for RCTs and the checklist of Downs and Black for randomised and nonrandomised studies. Using these criteria, six articles were eventually included in the final analysis . Table 2 shows the eight Studies excluded after examination of the full versions. The classification of the studies according to evidence level was carried out according to Kunz et al. , with four studies corresponding to evidence level I and two to evidence level III .

    Synthesis of the literature selection .

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    Limits Of Massage Therapy

    On its own, massage therapy wont provide long-term relief from your depression. It doesnt address the emotional or chemical problems that are causing your symptoms in a way that can be sustained. It shouldnt be used as a replacement for more conventional treatment options.

    Dr. Mason Turner, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Francisco, suggests that massage therapy can help treat depression by relieving muscle tension and improving physical health. Massage, he said, helps strengthen your body-mind connection.

    Anything that helps the person connect their mind and body together can be helpful, he told Healthline.

    The practice can help improve your overall health and aid in stress management. It can help relax your body, which, in turn, can relax your mind too.

    About The Writer Dr Brent Wells

    Your Fantastic Mind Season 1 Ep 3: Massage Therapy for Anxiety, Depression, Cancer Fatigue

    Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

    Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.

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    Treating Depression With Massage

    Physical pain that is often chronic goes hand in hand with psychological depression. Often, clients who come for massage for pain relief also suffer from depression. Of course, as massage therapists we do not do psychotherapy. However, depression has major physiological and anatomical components it is in this area that massage can truly have a significant and profound effect.

    It is important to understand depression and how it manifests physically. You also need to understand the different types of depression and physically how they individually respond to massage therapy.

    Situational depression: Many clients are situationally depressed. They usually have situations in life that are stressful and appear overwhelming. Situational depression often arises after loss of a loved one is experienced, typically during the mourning process. The good news is when the situations change massage can very effectively support the client moving out of depression.

    Severe depression often requires hospitalization and heavy medication. These clients usually won’t be coming for massage until they have had months of both psychological and chemical therapy. Due to the severity of the depression their issues are often profound, and the changes both structurally and biochemically are more severe. It is important for the massage therapist to be working with the psychiatrist and/or psychotherapist to monitor the risk for relapse and potential suicide.

    Treatment with Massage

    Anxiety And Depression Treatment

    Treatment for anxiety and depression have many similarities. The following are ways to minimize the effects of anxiety and depression and indicators of when you should seek medical care:

    Slow or cease the use of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine Include physical activities in your daily or weekly plans Establish a well-balanced diet Include nightly exercises and stretching that promote relaxation Join a support group provides an online support group found at Massage can relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, and increase flexibility. Massage therapy can work to manage the fight-or-flight response, or stress reaction, that is typically associated with anxiety disorders. Visit to learn more.

    You should seek medical care if you:

    Have trouble maintaining relationships Can no longer function efficiently at work Feel perpetually sad, troubled, or slowed down Abuse alcohol or other substances

    Seek immediate medical attention if you:

    Are consumed by thoughts of self-worthlessness Believe your life doesnt matter Are considering inflicting harm on others Are considering or contemplating suicide Can no longer complete daily activities or work

    What differs in the treatment of anxiety and depression is that depression treatments will frequently include both prescription medication and therapy.

    When you feel that there is no-one to speak to or help, you can reach out to:

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    Why Massage Is Important

    While studies of massage and its importance in your life are still being done, there has been plenty of research completed on the topic. In essence, there is a reduction in stress, muscle tension, and pain that come with an effective massage therapy session. It is to be used in conjunction with other standard medical treatments. It should never be a replacement of regular care from a doctor even with all the benefits.

    Some of the areas of health where massage is beneficial include:

    • Joint pain
    • Depression
    • Anxiety

    While all of these areas are important and could change your life if relieved with massage, anxiety and depression are the main focus right now.

    Human Studies Of The Neurobiology Of Massage

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    A few EEG and imaging studies have investigated the impact of massage on brain circuitry or brain regions. One of the first studies was performed by the Touch Institute. In this study, 26 adults were given chair massage for 15 minutes twice weekly for five weeks, and 24 adults were asked to sit quietly in the massage chair twice weekly for five weeks . Field and colleagues found that twice-weekly massage was associated with an increase in frontal delta power in the EEG and a decrease in frontal alpha and beta power. This pattern is consistent with increased relaxation yet enhanced alertness, which was supported by the massage groups having increased speed and accuracy on mathematical computations and decreased levels of anxiety. Salivary cortisol levels were also lower in the massage condition but not in the control condition. In a study of an aromatherapy massage intervention versus no treatment, Wu and colleagues were able to replicate an increase in alpha wave activity in their aromatherapy massage sample, but they found a reduction in delta wave activity. However, they reported decreases in state anxiety and depression and an increase in psychological well-being as well as a reduction in salivary cortisol levels and an increase in plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the aromatherapy group.

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    Anxietydepression As A Massage Therapist

    We all have our struggles going through this journey called life. There are some times the we are having a bad day, depressed, anxiety, or we are in physical pain. If in pain as a Massage Therapist, you pretty much work through it, and hope a fellow colleague can help you out. But what do you do when you are in depression? Or if you have high anxiety levels? How do you disconnect your home life problems, to provide for the clients needs. I think after years of Massage practice one can ground them selves pretty well for anxiety. But when you as a M.T. are working and its all very quiet, you can not help but think about all the issues going on in your life. When in fact you should be paying attention to the client on the table. I think for me, Massaging in pain, having anxiety, family issues, or just having a bad day I can always get through it. But if I am depressed about an issue, it is very hard to deal with a client who wants to relax and feel good. Also it is harder to concentrate on the work I would be performing. What are your thoughts?

    Thank you for reading 🙂

    Can Massage Therapy Help With Anxiety And Depression

    Most people know massages are relaxing, but not many know how exactly massage effects our mental state. Several studies regarding the effect massage has on the brain and connection to anxiety and depression.

    The most common discovery in massage research is the link between massage and decreased cortisol levels.1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 Cortisol fuels the bodys fight or flight instinct. Cortisol boosts energy so you can handle stress, manages how the body uses carbohydrates, keeps down inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar, and controls your sleep/wake cycle. But if levels are high for a long period of time, it can become a problem.

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    How To Get Started

    Massage therapy is offered at many spas, salons, and wellness centers. However, as it continues to become a more mainstream treatment option for physical and mental health concerns, massage is now offered at many hospitals and clinics as well. Some insurance companies even cover massage therapy services.

    When meeting with your massage therapist for the first time, make sure to discuss your medical history, including any mental health symptoms.

    It is important to schedule these services with a licensed or certified massage therapist. This ensures that you will get treatment from a qualified practitioner who has followed the standards and requirements for their state licensure.

    Licensed massage therapists can be found through website directories, including the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and the American Massage Therapy Association. Let the massage therapist know if you have any specific areas of concern and be sure to discuss what you hope to get out of the massage, such as muscle or stress relief.

    Regular Massages Can Significantly Reduce Stress And Anxiety

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    Massage alters EEG activity, increases parasympathetic activity, and decreases cortisol levels

    Massage is widely used in all cultures to evoke feelings of deep relaxation and reduced anxiety. The anxiety-reducing and mood-enhancing benefits of massage are probably related to changes in EEG activity, decreased levels of cortisol, and increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts automatically to calm the body and brain during stress.

    Numerous studies show that moderate pressure massage is more effective than light pressure massage for reducing pain associated with different medical problems including fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Moderate pressure massage also improves attention and enhances the body’s immune response by increasing the activity of natural killer cells. Functional brain imaging studies show that changes take place in many areas of the brain involved in regulating emotions and stress response including the amygdala and the hypothalamus. For an excellent review of the research evidence for massage therapy see “Massage Therapy Research Review” by Field .

    Challenges to designing studies on massage

    Massage is widely used for anxiety and has a strong record of success

    Few safety issues

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