By Jo McClaine
The relaxation effect of massage is well-known to most people. Many have also experienced relief from pain, muscle soreness or stiffness after a massage. But recent research has also shown beneficial effects of massage on many aspects of mental health. Most notably, symptoms of anxiety and depression appear to have been alleviated with the use of massage therapy.
In people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the less severe "winter blues", those who received regular massage experienced improved mood and reset circadian rhythms, which led to improved sleep and more energy.
A study on the use of massage therapy on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed significant reductions in anxiety, worry, irritability, tension and depression following massage. Another study of veterans with post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) indicated declines in reports of depression and other PTSD symptoms after eight weeks of massage therapy.
Numerous studies on people with chronic pain, including those with fibromyalgia or low back pain, showed not only decreases in pain, but also lowered anxiety, depression and stress hormones, with higher levels of serotonin and dopamine and improved sleep.
Back massages given to cancer patients during chemotherapy resulted in lower levels of anxiety and acute fatigue both during the massages and after chemo. Another study found benefits of regular massage for women with stage 1 and 2 breast cancer. Short-term benefits included reduced moodiness, anxiety and anger, and there were longer-term increases in serotonin levels and decreases in cortisol levels and depression.
The effects of hand and foot massage were studied on patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Measured heart and respiratory rates and blood pressure were found to be lower post-massage, and anxiety levels were observed to be lessened.
Gentle back and hand massage done on elderly patients promoted decreased levels of stress, while hand massage on hospice patients resulted in reductions in depression and anxiety.
Facial massage done on healthy subjects was found to reduce anxiety and negative moods while increasing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
All of this points to the fact that massage can greatly enhance the mental health of a wide variety of people. To experience these benefits for yourself, call 314.286.0525 to schedule a session with one of the massage therapists at Move by BJC.