What new research shows: A review of more than a dozen massage studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine concludes that massage therapy relieves depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry. In a series of studies including about 500 men, women, and children with depression or stress problems, researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in participants before and immediately after massage and found that the therapy lowered levels by up to 53%. (Cortisol can drive up blood pressure and blood sugar levels and suppress the immune system.) Massage also increased serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.
Does Massage Reduce Depression?
The World Health Organization(WHO) predicts that by 2020 major depression will be second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide. That is a disturbing prediction to say the least. The fact is that most people are affected by some type of depression at one point in their lives.
Types of Depression:
Seasonal affective disorder (this depressive disorder is the result of lack of sunlight and is often treated with light therapy)
Postpartum depression (this is when a new mother has a depressive episode after giving birth and usually occurs within a month after delivery)
Major depressive disorder (this is a disabling depressive disorder that interferes with your daily life, making it very difficult to get up in the morning and participate in daily activities), People who get this depressive disorder often have it more than once.
Depression due to a traumatic event (such as a death in the family, a divorce, etc.).
Depression due to hormonal changes in the body, particularly in women. Life-cycle transitions cause hormonal fluctuations in some women and may trigger mild to severe mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, particularly during pregnancy, postpartum and perimenopause.
Some depression, whether mild or more severe, in men, women and children remains unexplained, but is nevertheless real.
How Does Massage Help?
So how does massage affect moods? While massage is not a depression cure, it can help decrease depressed feelings. One of the best-known benefits of massage therapy is its ability to enhance feelings of well-being, and studies show promise in the area of depression. When you’re depressed, your brain produces less neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, endorphins and dopamine – the feel-good hormones. Although the root causes are not fully understood, a physiological marker of depression is a low level of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for the transmission of nerve messages and helps to sustain feelings of well-being. Massage releases both serotonin and endorphins. The serotonin acts as a calming mediator for the body while the endorphins act as a happy stimulator for the brain.
As well as increasing production of these feel-good hormones, massage also helps lower the stress hormone, cortisol. Also, therapeutic massage releases tension and promotes relaxation, which leads to an immediate and significant decrease in cortisol, sometimes by more than 40 percent.
Some symptoms of depression are: if you are feeling sad, and this feeling doesn’t go away within a reasonable amount of time, feeling tired all the time, having difficulty concentrating, experiencing feelings of hopelessness, have loss of interest in life and things you used to enjoy, sleeping too much or the inability to sleep at all, overeating or loss of appetite, and feelings of emptiness or irritability.
If you’re feeling depressed consider getting a Swedish massage or some form of relaxation massage. The smooth fluid strokes of this type of massage really help calm the mind. For those who have not responded well to prescription antidepressants, there are alternative therapies that have been shown to provide positive results in treating mild to moderate degrees of depression. These therapies include acupuncture, animal-assisted therapy, aromatherapy, expressive therapy and touch or massage therapy.