6 Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

By Joe Neely, Massagetique Correspondent
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Today’s medical researchers have found massage therapy can provide benefits to those who experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Experts have shown many types of massage therapy can be a great complement to psychotherapy for treating certain conditions. Here are some conditions massage therapy can have an effect on:

1. Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health issues, and both can negatively impact lives. Studies have shown massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Researchers at Taiwan’s E-Da Hospital and College of Medicine reviewed 17 scientific studies involving 786 people. The findings showed massage had many positive benefits for people experiencing depression and led to a reduction in symptoms. At Japan’s Kyushu University, a team of experts found facial massage soothed participants’ physiological distress. They concluded that massage activated participants’ sympathetic nervous system, reducing their anxiety and improving their mood.

Before your next massage, ask your practitioner to help you choose treatments options that address your depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues.

2. Neurotransmitter and Hormone Balance

Researchers have shown massage therapy activates neurotransmitters that can decrease anxiety and lower stress hormone levels. At the University of Miami School of Medicine, researchers found massage therapy had positive effects on people who were experiencing a range of mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders, and stress. The research team found about a 30% increase in serotonin and dopamine levels in the study participants who underwent massage, as well as a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. These findings suggest massage was responsible for an increase in feel-good neurotransmitters and a decrease in stress.

3. Blood Pressure and Circulatory Issues

A massage therapist can help lower your heart rate as well as your systolic (pumping) and diastolic (resting) high blood pressure.

At Iran’s Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, a researcher compared two groups of 25 women. One group received 10-15 minutes of Swedish massage three times a week for a total of 10 sessions; the women in the other group relaxed in the same environment, but did not receive massages. The researchers found massage caused a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure that persisted for as many as three days after treatment.

A researcher at the University of South Florida studied the effects of back massage on hypertension (high blood pressure) and found blood pressure reductions in study participants who received massage. Those reductions lasted for two days after treatment.

If you experience high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about adding massage therapy to your current course of treatment. Though massage helps many people, it may not be an advised solution for everyone, especially if you have deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots). Make sure to talk to your physician before scheduling a massage appointment.

4. Alleviating Symptoms of Illness or Disease

People with life-threatening illnesses or diseases often experience anxiety and depression that can exacerbate their condition. Massage therapy can greatly increase quality of life, freeing up mental and physiological resources to fight off disease. Many physicians recommend massage as a complementary therapy to medical care for its healing power and low incidence of side effects.

At the Columbia University Medical Center, experts studied children with cancer and found massage therapy helped manage many side effects of cancer treatment, including pain, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and reduced immune function.

A University of Miami research team found study participants with AIDS had less anxiety, stress, anger, and overall mood issues after receiving massage therapy and learning home care relaxation techniques. The people who were treated by massage therapists had lower norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter linked to depression) levels as compared to a control group.

5. Veterans’ Mental Health

Researchers recently published a paper in the journal Military Medicine describing the reintegration process for National Guard members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The researchers followed service members and their partners for eight weeks as part of a pilot program to develop treatments for returning veterans. They found massage therapy helped veterans relieve pain, irritability, tension, worry, anxiety, and depression.

At the Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center, clinical psychologist John Fortunato puts people experiencing posttraumatic stress through a rigorous and comprehensive regimen of therapies, including different types of massage. These therapies helped veterans turn off their hyperaroused survival mechanisms, learn to relax again, and get the healthy sleep their bodies needed. Of the 37 soldiers in the program, only two had to take medical discharges from service. Twelve of the service members returned to active duty.

6. Work-Related Stress in Health Care Professionals

Mayo Clinic researchers recently studied 38 nurses who received chair massages (one of the quickest and simplest forms of massage therapy) once a week for 10 weeks during work hours. The health care professionals who received massage therapy experienced a reduction in many stress-related symptoms, including joint and muscle pain, shoulder tension, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.

No matter your line of work, regular massage therapy can increase your health, well-being, and stamina. Many organizations hire massage therapists to lower employee stress levels and improve productivity. Not only can a massage break feel good and improve morale, research shows it can also improve workplace efficiency.

Is Massage Therapy Right for You?

If you think massage therapy is right for you, check with your doctor to be sure. Find a licensed massage practitioner with specialized training for working with any preexisting conditions you may have, so the therapist can meet your particular needs and maximize the benefits massage therapy can provide. Share details of your medical history, tests, treatments, and any other relevant information with your massage therapist so your sessions can be adjusted accordingly.

References:

  1. Antoni, M., Cruess, D., Cruess, S., Lutgendorf, S., Kumar, M., Ironson, G., Klimas, N., Fletcher, M., & Schneiderman, N. (2000). Cognitive-behavioral stress management intervention effects on anxiety, 24-hr urinary norepinephrine output, and T-cytotoxic/suppressor cells over time among symptomatic HIV-infected gay men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(1), 31-45. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.68.1.31
  2. Collinge, W., Kahn, J., Soltysik, R. (2012). Promoting reintegration of National Guard veterans and their partners using a self-directed program of integrative therapies: a pilot study. Military medicine, 177(12), 1477-1485.
  3. Engen, D., Wahner-Roedler, D., Vincent, A., Chon, T., Cha, S., Luedtke…Bauer, B. (2012). Feasibility and effect of chair massage offered to nurses during work hours on stress-related symptoms: a pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 18(4), 212-215. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.06.002.
  4. Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(10), 1397-1413. doi:10.1080/00207450590956459
  5. Givi, M. (2013). Durability of effect of massage therapy on blood pressure. International Journal of Preventative Medicine, 4(5), 511–516.
  6. Hatayama, T., Kitamura, S., Tamura, C., Nagano, M., & Ohnuki, K. (2008). The facial massage reduced anxiety and negative mood status, and increased sympathetic nervous activity. Biomedical Research, 29(6), 317-20. doi:10.2220/biomedres.29.317
  7. Hou, W., Chiang, P., Hsu, T., Chiu, S., & Yen, Y. (2010). Treatment effects of massage therapy in depressed people: a meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 71(7), 894-901. doi:10.4088/JCP.09r05009blu.
  8. Hughes D1, Ladas E, Rooney D, Kelly K. (2008). Massage therapy as a supportive care intervention for children with cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum, 35(3), 431-42. doi:10.1188/08.ONF.431-442.
  9. Olney, C. M. (2005). The effect of therapeutic back massage in hypertensive persons: a preliminary study. Biological Research for Nursing, 7(2), 98-105. doi:10.1177/1099800405280827
  10. Wilcox, A. (2015, January 6). Benefits of workplace massage: is it really worth it? Retrieved from https://www.incorporatemassage.com/blog/benefits-of-corporate-massage-at-work

9 thoughts on “6 Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy”

  1. If all these are true, I need to get myself a therapeutic massage. My anxiety isn’t bad, but it drives me up the wall sometimes. If I had known that getting a massage could have so many mental health benefits, I’d have gotten one a long time ago.

  2. My wife was telling me that she wants to get massages more often, and I was curious about how it would benefit her. I never knew that it could actually help with high blood pressure! It would be nice to see that she won’t have to worry when she is getting stressed out.

  3. I didn’t realize that massage therapy could help you deal with depression and anxiety. It’s good to know that there is a natural method like massage therapy that can help people overcome those difficult feelings. I also think that massages can help you feel more confident by making you physically feel better overall. Your confidence can also help to ward off depression and anxiety.

  4. I thought it was incredibly interesting to learn from the article that massage therapy has been proven to reduce the symptoms of depression. I guess I had always thought massages brought a strictly physical benefit to patients. My wife suffers from anxiety, so how often would she need to have massages in order to experience any sort of long-term benefits to her anxiety?

  5. I like that you mentioned that massage can be a great way yo alleviate symptoms of anxiety. I am often anxious and stressed, and I would love to be able to make it better. If massage therapy can really help my mental state this much, I will have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I like that you mention how massage treatment is great for those that struggle with depression or anxiety. My sister’s oldest daughter is struggling with that and my sister is looking for solutions. I’ll be sure to talk to her about finding a professional salon that can help with that.

  7. Thanks for the informative blog. Even for myself, i will get massage whenever i am not feeling well (e.g. headache, fast heart bit rate, etc) and almost all the time it helped.

    Even nowadays people start to realize the benefit of massage, however there are so many people could be educated to understand the importance of massage. I personally believe that massage can help to improve our healthiness in the long run.

  8. Thanks for sharing this helpful post. I always visit Miami for a therapeutic massage on holiday and believe me massage is one of the best way to make your body more healthy. After massage you will feel relax and stress-free.

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