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Massage for Anxiety and Depression: What the Research Says

Woman thinks about massage for anxiety and depression

“Instead of dealing with the medications, people with mental health problems are turning to things like a massage for anxiety and depression, along with many other diagnoses.” ~ Dr. Brent Wells on touch therapy.

According to Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are tens of millions of people throughout the United States and the world with various forms of mental health conditions every year.

Those who go untreated are at risk for suicide or disability from their diagnosis. Mental health conditions like anxiety in teens are on the rise.

There are plenty of people who do get treatment for their conditions, however. In 1997, about 77% of all individuals were taking some form of pharmaceutical, psychotropic medication for their mental illness symptoms. While the drugs prescribed by physicians are effective, there are plenty of adverse side effects from extended use.

That’s why more and more individuals are turning to non-conventional, holistic, non-invasive forms of treatment for all kinds of illnesses, diseases, and conditions. Instead of dealing with the medications, people with mental health problems are turning to things like a massage for anxiety and depression, along with many other diagnoses.

Touch Therapy: Massage for Anxiety

Every single year, one out of five Americans deal with anxiety on some level. Often there is a relationship between everyday stress like finances, social gatherings, or career opportunities and anxiety. While some people can deal with these “normal” activities without much of an issue, others find it practically crippling.

Through the use of massage therapy, “manual manipulation of soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments) to enhance a person’s health and well-being,” people are seeing positive results. After getting this kind of treatment, some of the outcomes that patients can expect include:

  • The decline in depression and anxiety similar to those seen after psychotherapy
  • A decrease in hormones that lead to anxiety
  • Increase neurotransmitters for lowering anxiety
  • Lower heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce anxiety and depression in individuals with anxiety, depression, work-related stress, and cancer, as well as military veterans.

Furthermore, reports from the American Psychological Association show that the stress levels that U.S. adults feel regularly are on the rise. Stress is one of the main factors for developing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Getting a massage can lower stress levels, and help make mental health symptoms more manageable.

Massage and Depression Case Studies: Does It Work?

Getting a massage for most people is an enjoyable experience. That’s true whether they are treating a symptom or simply want to relax for an hour and be pampered. While not everyone thinks about it, a touch therapy professional enables positive effects on not only the body but also the mind.

However, when you get a massage for depression or some other kind of mental health condition, you want to know if it’s worth your time. Sure, you may have some relief from achy or tense muscles, but are you going to feel better mentally and overall?

As of 2010, there were 100 different clinical trials on where researchers were determining the effectiveness of massage as a form of treatment for different medical conditions. They included:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Serious medical conditions
  • Infant massage
  • Various psychiatric disorders

While more research is still required, 17 of those completed studies that used massage for depression reduced more symptoms than those that didn’t get the massage therapy treatment. Across all studies analyzed, the results consistently showed the effects of massage as an antidepressant.

Massage Therapy for Better Health and Well-being

There has been a lot of research and studies on massage therapy and its effectiveness in the medical field. And many professionals are still conflicted about whether patients can rely on massage to improve their health and well-being. However, there is a lot of evidence to show that it does have benefits to those suffering from mental health conditions. Yes, research supports massage for anxiety and depression.

If Touch Therapy Improves Mental Health, Is it Right for You?

Are you thinking about getting a massage for depression or another mental health condition? If so, consider the supporting facts about its effectiveness. You can join the many individuals who use chiropractic massage therapy, a form of touch therapy. The purpose is to treat their medical conditions instead of seeing a medical doctor and taking risky medications.

You may want to visit a chiropractic clinic — such as our chiropractic clinic offering massage therapy to residents in Anchorage — and consult with your chiropractor before obtaining massage therapy as your only treatment option. Do so to make sure that it’s safe for you. Discuss with your licensed massage therapist your medical history and any current treatments you use. Doing so will help you get the most benefits out of this form of health care.

About the Writer, Dr. Brent Wells

Dr Brent Wells on massage for anxiety and depression
Dr. Brent Wells on the benefits of touch therapy. Can a massage for anxiety and depression be helpful?

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.

28 thoughts on “Massage for Anxiety and Depression: What the Research Says”

  1. Really interesting article… In addition to medication, I find that a good balance between holistic treatments and different therapies really serves me well during these cold and dark winter months. R x

    1. I’m glad you found what works for you ~ That’s really the key isn’t it, what combination is effective for our own unique mind and body. Take care.

    2. Yes you’re absolutely right… it can be hard, a right bloody struggle even to find what works for you but it is achievable and it can be done. Mental ill health is just so complex… but with the right balance of meds (or not) and social efforts it can be mastered and allow for you to lead a fully functioning and healthy life. It’s lovely chatting to you, and likewise, take care x

    3. Thank you for your support and opinions here ~ I like when mental health is something we discuss rather than pretending it’s not an issue. Hugs.

    4. You are absolutely welcome… I think it’s the only way forward. We have to talk about these things or allow the issues and stigma to continue. If we could all be just a little bit more open and honest about our experiences then no one need suffer in silence. Hugs x

    1. Awesome that you see a specialist sometimes! I saw a massage therapist today and it helped with some areas that have been causing me physical discomfort. My mind feels a lot lighter too :)

  2. This was really fascinating to read. I’ve ashamedly never had a massage before. I get bad anxiety whenever doing something new or going somewhere different, and I find yoga helps but I’ll have to look into massages now as well :) Thank you for sharing.

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