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Massage Therapy and Depression

By: Jessi Wiley
9/17/2019

What is depression?

Depression is both a brain disorder and a state of mind.  It is a common, serious illness that leads to a persistent sad, anxious or “empty mood.”  Affecting almost 300 million people worldwide, it can happen to anyone, at any age, and to people of any race or ethnic group.  It is never a “normal” part of life.  Depression, which is treatable, can come from chemical imbalances in the brain, hormonal changes, medications or life events.  Though it can be treated by methods like anti-depressants and talk therapy, massage therapy is a great addition to the treatment of depression.

How can massage help with depression?

Whether a person suffers from persistent anxiety and depression or experiences stress from time to time, massage therapy can help.  More than 500 men, women, and children with a history of depression and anxiety had their cortisol, a stress hormone in the body, measured before and after a massage. After a series of studies, researchers found that massage therapy helped participants lower their levels of cortisol by more than 53 percent.  Basically, if your cortisol levels are lowered, that allows your body to produce more serotonin and boosts your ability to fight depression and anxiety.

The science behind massage and how it can help with depression

Human touch is very powerful and can help us to heal.  It is a comforting gift that is present from infancy into adulthood and takes on many forms.  For example, infants long the touch of their mother after birth and throughout adolescence, while children seek reassuring gestures from their parents.  Touch is vital for the growth and development of a child, giving them a sense of belonging and security.  Into adulthood, even a simple pat on the back can turn a bad day around.
When we come into physical contact with someone, we can experience an increase of dopamine and serotonin levels in the body.  These two neurotransmitters help to regulate our mood. With that being said, massage doesn’t just relieve aches and pains, it can literally adjust the chemicals in your brain to improve your mood, making you feel refreshed and happier.
Anything that connects your mind and body like massage can be helpful for depression. By increasing serotonin levels, connecting your mind and body, and bringing a sense of safety and comfort, regular massages can be extremely beneficial for somebody suffering from depression.
Bibliography
https://www.myotherapycollege.com/can-massage-therapy-really-help-depression-anxiety/
https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/massage-therapy
https://dynamicphysiotherapy.ca/blog/massage-therapy/how-massage-therapy-helps-with-depression/
https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/
https://www.lifealth.com/wellness/healthy-living/why-human-touch-is-important-for-an-individual-mj/57304/

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