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.
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