There are many complementary health approaches that can have a positive effect on anxiety and depression and Massage Therapy is one of them. The majority of my clients, that suffer from a diagnosed anxiety and/or depressive disorder, have reported their level of anxiety and depression is significantly decreased after a treatment and this effect can last for days after the massage.
The spectrum of anxiety and depression go from mild forms to very severe. Both depression and anxiety occur often in our daily lives. In the case of anxiety, the mild short-lived situational anxiety is a natural process in our body and is based on a fear reaction. It is an important survival mechanism and can trigger our flight or fight response if we need to escape from danger. Things like public speaking, test taking, new situations, and new and serious health symptoms can all trigger situational anxiety. If the anxiety becomes prolonged, then it can lead to numerous symptoms including a state of nervousness and leads to physical and emotional pain. Depression on the other hand doesn’t have as clear of an everyday application. The blues or feelings of unhappiness, loss, and sadness happen regularly for most people, but what purpose does it serve? It could be a way to slow down our body/mind to allow time to process these difficult life circumstances. It also seems to be part of the normal stages of dealing with certain situations. If feelings of depression become prolonged then the symptoms will often disrupt the person’s daily life and they will be unable to cope and often stop their normal activities. Clients with clinical depression will often experience some form of body pain, which becomes exacerbated by the lack of activity that will increase the body pain, decrease joint and muscle functions.
The benefits from massage therapy have a multi-tiered approach. The massage treatment: directly helps the feelings anxiety and depression, targets the physical symptoms that occur due to the client’s reaction to their anxiety and depression, and massage increases the client’s perceived feelings of energy. Massage therapy can reduce the cortisol levels (a stress hormone) of the client that helps to decrease the stress symptoms like increased blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anxiety. The treatment also can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing serotonin and dopamine levels that can help reduce depression. By directly decreasing the levels of anxiety and depression, the massage will also have an effect on the corresponding body pain that the client feels due to their condition. When their condition is more prolonged or severe, they will start getting secondary body effect due to the loss of activity and personal maintenance: like exercising (stretching/strengthening) and any movement based activity walking, gardening, housework.