Is massage good for stress and anxiety?
Category: Massage Posted: 16 Jul 2018
Posted: 16 Jul 2018
Finding yourself pulled in opposite directions and under mental strain is not unusual, especially for those of us who live or work in busy urban cities. Most of us have experienced some form of stress as a result of hectic lifestyles or as a consequence of specific events. Before considering massage therapy, it is a good idea to check that you are not suffering from any condition that could make it unsafe to receive a massage.
What causes stress
Waiting for test results, moving home or ending a relationship are challenging aspects of life that many of us have suffered at some stage. Feeling worried during one-off life events like these is quite normal. However, prolonged periods of mental pressure building from a succession of tough events, or just living a constantly hectic work versus life environment, without allowing appropriate time to relax and recover, can lead to more serious conditions. If you have started feeling worried about life generally and are less able to identify a particular cause for your discomfort, you may be at the early stages of chronic stress and anxiety.
Over time chronic stress can affect all parts of your body, not just your mood. Medical conditions such as depression, higher blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and nervous shaking can all be caused by extended periods of higher than normal stress levels. Stress is also known to contribute to more serious and life-threatening conditions such as coronary disease and stroke.
How to manage stress & anxiety
It is very important to take action as soon as you can. The good news is that it is almost always possible to improve a condition of stress. In some cases, depending on the extent of chronic stress you may need professional advice from a medical expert and a course of medication to assist in recovery. However it is often possible to fix without the need for any medical intervention, simply through simple and effective lifestyle changes.
Stress management is the key to recovery and can incorporate a wide range of techniques, from prescribed medications to holistic therapies such as massage. Simple daily lifestyle changes such as switching off all the technology around you for just one day a week can also work wonders. Sundays are a great choice for going back to nature and taking a break from the mobile phone.
What kind of massage is good for stress?
Various studies have explored the effectiveness of massage in the treatment of depression, anxiety and chronic stress. In 2011 a clinical trial tested the effectiveness of therapeutic massage in patients suffering from anxiety against other methods such as heat therapy or relaxing in a specially curated room. The study concluded that therapeutic massage was just as effective as the other methods. We disagree with these findings for several reasons. The study failed to incorporate the positive mental effects of spending time and chatting with a properly trained massage therapist who not only delivers physical therapy but also offers empathy and a listening ear which aids anxiety reduction. Intensive therapeutic massage treatments such as trigger point therapy and deep tissue massage have also been shown to increase blood circulation and release physical tension in tight knots more quickly than passive methodologies. The sooner physical strains are released, the quicker emotional stresses can begin to recede. Finally, loneliness has been shown to be a key factor in the onset of depression. Spending even just an hour or two with a emotionally stable massage therapist on a regular basis can help improve and lighten ones mood.
However, the beneficial effects of massage for reducing stress are easy to appreciate without the need to refer to evidence from research studies. Feeling good simply makes you feel less stressed.
Much has been written on how the release of natural hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin can make you feel happier, hence why they are often referred to as the happy hormones! Serotonin is known as a feel-good hormone because its release leads to a feeling of fulfilment and it can help regulate a better sleep cycle. Endorphins promote a feeling of well-being and bliss. Dopamine is connected to an overwhelming feeling of desire towards being involved in the things all around us, from love to cream cakes!
One of the most effective ways to fight your body's negative emotions is to use nature's very own healing hormones. Understanding how you can naturally increase the levels of these feel-good hormones in your body compared to the levels of stress related hormones such as cortisol is key.
Touch is a healer
Simply being touched by another human being, especially one naturally adept at touching with love and empathy, is perhaps one of the greatest natural contributors to the release of feel-good hormones. Fixing stress through real massage is about making you feel better. We therefore recommend and enable you to choose whichever massage you feel inclined to, whichever massage therapist profile matches your needs and whichever body parts you feel would benefit from treatment the most.
On a final note, a massage should above all else be a happy experience and should not cause you any stress. Read our 9 Embarrassing Questions and tips on tipping to help ensure your planned massage does not add to stress levels.