Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy
By Joe Neely
Today’s medical researchers have found massage therapy can provide benefits to those who experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Here are some conditions massage therapy can have an effect on:
• 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.
• 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.
• 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. …
• 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.
• 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. …
• Work-Related Stress in Health Care Professionals— Mayo Clinic researchers recently studied 38 nurses who received massages 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. Not only can a massage break feel good and improve morale, research shows it can also improve workplace efficiency.
Americans prefer drug-free pain management. While 22% of U.S. adults prefer to take pain medication prescribed by a doctor to treat their physical pain, 78% prefer to try other ways to address their physical pain before they take pain medication prescribed by a doctor. This finding is based on data collected from February through March 2017 as part of the Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Study of Americans.
Pain is an ongoing issue for many Americans. “About one in four adults in the U.S. (27%) have seen a healthcare professional for significant neck or back pain in the last 12 months. More than half of those adults (54%) have had an ongoing problem with neck or back pain for five years or more.”