How Massage Helps DepressionStress 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.

Taking time for massage is as important for people dealing with depression as it is for people dealing with arthritis, sports injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. Studies that revealed how massage can fight depression by lowering cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the body’s response to stress, and massage therapy lowers it by as much as 50%. At the same time, massage provides many benefits and can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters that help stabilize your mood.

Neurotransmitters and Massage

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 International Journal of Neuroscience studied a group of people with spinal cord injuries who were also suffering from depression. Twice a week for five weeks, half the patients received two 40-minute sessions of motion exercises while the other half received two 40-minute massages.

Both groups improved their physical abilities during that time, but the people who received massage therapy also became less depressed. So even while exercise has long been accepted as a means of combating depression, massage not only provides additional benefits but can also relieve stiffness and soreness resulting from physical exercise.

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.

Sometimes it can be difficult to make time for taking care of yourself, but a Massage Envy membership is an effective way of maintaining regular attention to wellness. Ongoing massage therapy promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness, which reinforces a positive attitude.

Reserving some specific time for a professional massage, customized to address your personal needs, makes it easier to remember that you deserve to feel good and that you’re taking important steps to make it happen.

Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.

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References

Coelho, HF; Boddy, K; Ernst, E (February 2008). Massage therapy for the treatment of depression: a systematic review. International journal of clinical practice. 62 (2): 325–33.

Kunz, Kevin; Kunz, Barbara (1993). The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology. Reflexology Research Project.

Ernst, Edzard; Pittler, Max H; Wider, Barbara; Boddy, Kate (2008). Oxford Handbook of Complementary Medicine.

Knaster, Mirka (1996). Discovering the Body’s Wisdom: A Comprehensive Guide to More Than Fifty Mind-Body Practices. Bantam.

Myers, Thomas W. (LMT.) (19 September 2001). Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 978-0-443-06351-0.

Braun, Mary Beth. Introduction to Massage Therapy (Third Edition). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Lafferty D, Hodgson NA (2012). Reflexology versus Swedish Massage to Reduce Physiologic Stress and Pain and Improve Mood in Nursing Home Residents with Cancer: A Pilot Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012: 456897.

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