Massage and the Mental Health Connection

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Massage therapy has been used as a healing method for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations all over the world utilized their own unique massage techniques to heal injuries, relieve pain, and even cure or prevent illnesses. Even today, we are well aware of the many benefits massage therapy offers – aside from an hour of peace and quiet at the end of a long week.

It is surprising, then, that we are only now beginning to really utilize massage therapy as a method of healing not only physical ailments but mental illnesses as well.

With dialogue surrounding mental illness becoming more open and supported, we are recognizing that mental illness is, unfortunately, far more prevalent within society than we knew. We need all the help we can get to fight mental illness, which is why understanding the massage and mental health connection is a big step in a positive direction.

The Growing Issue of Mental Health

Awareness surrounding mental health is growing – as we become more aware of mental health and mental illness, we think it is safe to assume that this increased societal awareness is leading to better treatment for those suffering. If that were the case, mental illness would be on downward trend – in fact it is quite surprisingly the opposite.

Mental illness is on the rise. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression will actually be the most widespread global disease within by the end of the next decade.

For the purposes of this article, Let’s take a quick look at how mental health affects Canadians in particular.

Mental Illness in Canada

  • Each year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience some kind of mental health problem or illness
  • By age 40, close to 50% of the country’s population will have, or have had, a mental illness.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some point during their lives
  • Anxiety disorders 5% of the household population
  • 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by mental illness or disorder
  • Only 1 in 5 Canadian youth who need mental health services receive them

These are not the statistics we want to hear, so it is our responsibility as a society to work our hardest to find solutions to the mental health crisis (yes, crisis) that we are facing.

One technique that is now being used to help heal, or at least reduce symptoms in, those suffering with various mental health issues is massage therapy.

Massage therapy provides numerous benefits to those suffering physical ailments and is known to help reduce stress and rebalance our bodies – so it only makes sense that it would have the potential to provide similar benefits to those struggling with mental illness.

How Massage Therapy Can Help

In fact, massage therapy has been proven to assist those with mental illness in many ways. Different types of massage therapy have been found to have different affects, such as reducing symptoms, in individuals depending on what type of mental illness they are struggling with.

Two of the most common mental health issues, depression and anxiety, are two issues that have been found to greatly benefit from massage therapy.

Massage Therapy for Depression and Anxiety

The brain and the body are more connected than we realize.

A variety of studies have been done, along with the ongoing research that is taking place, in an attempt to understand the connection between massage therapy and mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.

These studies have come to a number of helpful conclusions in terms of whether or not massage therapy is capable of reducing symptoms associated with these conditions, and how it does so.

  • Massage activates participants’ sympathetic nervous system, which aids in reducing anxiety and improving mood
  • Massage therapy activates various neurotransmitters that can decrease anxiety and lower stress hormone levels
  • Massage therapy increases the amount of “feel-good” hormones in our bodies, such as serotonin and dopamine, while simultaneously reducing the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone
  • Massage can alleviate many of the stress-inducers we experience, such as tension, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia, and headaches.

We already knew that massages were relaxing and stress relieving – but now we can see that they are so much more than that.

The ways in which massage therapy alters our nervous system and hormone balance in such a positive way make it hard to believe anything other than the idea that the connection between massage therapy and mental health is a strong one.

Mental illness brings us down – it creates a cloud of negative thoughts and feelings that overshadow our ability to enjoy life. The fact that a massage can trigger such positive chemical reactions within our body, reactions that are biologically intended to reduce stress and lift our moods, make massage therapy a great option to help those struggling with mental health issues.

It Can’t Hurt To Try

Many believe that massage therapy can help us to strengthen and heal our mind-body connection. This is evident in the ways in which we’ve seen massage therapy drastically reduce symptoms and improve quality of life once more for patients struggling with different mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety.

If you or someone you know is struggling with some form of mental illness, massage therapy might be the answer you are looking for.

Speak with a massage practitioner today about your concerns and open your mind to what they have to offer you.


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