Massage therapy: Can it reduce anxiety and depression?


Massage therapy: Can it reduce anxiety and depression?

Summary: Since the onset of COVID, levels of anxiety and depression have increased worldwide. Thankfully, research demonstrates that a series of massage therapy treatments can help reduce levels of anxiety and depression.

Did you know that by age 40, about 50% of the Canadian population will have or will have had a mental illness? With such staggering stats, it’s imperative we find tools to help.

According to the paper, A meta-analysis of massage therapy research, “(r)eductions of trait anxiety and depression are massage therapy’s largest effects, with a course of treatment providing benefits similar in magnitude to those of psychotherapy.” In fact, studies have shown that significant reductions in anxiety can occur during the first massage session, and almost twice as much in the last. This may occur as a person becomes accustomed to a massage experience, knows what to expect, and in turn their nervous system can relax.

“Coming for regular massage therapy sessions has been really helpful for my mental health. I feel less anxiety and I can fall asleep more easily.” —SP

So how does it all work?

We know that being in the presence of another calm and caring human being helps us feel more at ease, and that positive touch helps us to feel relaxed and reassured. However, research has not yet determined exactly why massage therapy helps to reduce anxiety and depression. It’s theorized that many physiological and psychological factors are at play. When a Registered Massage Therapist is present with you, listens and communicates well, and is curious to find out about what feels best for you during a massage, you feel seen and valued. By noting your preference for pressure levels, music, lighting, table heat, to chat or relax in silence, a skilled RMT helps to create an enjoyable experience that you can truly relax into.

If you experience anxiety or depression and are interested in massage therapy, choose an RMT whose personality and massage style you enjoy, and try receiving a massage once or twice a week, for about four to six weeks. You may find you can space treatments out over time as your levels of anxiety and depression decrease. Speak with your doctor, therapist or RMT if you have questions about massage therapy and mental health.

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With great respect and gratitude, we practice massage therapy on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples –Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) And Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations.

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