Massage therapy has been anecdotally accepted as a treatment for stress and anxiety for as long as it has been practiced, but only fairly recently have rigorous clinical investigations of this folk wisdom been undertaken.
After sufficient research had been performed to get a clear sense of the relationship between massage and anxiety across multiple studies, a remarkable result then emerged: the relationship between massage therapy and anxiety relief appears to be among the strongest of all traditionally understood massage benefits.
This is true of state anxiety, the short-term condition of feeling anxious. State anxiety can experience relief from a single massage therapy session. It is also true for trait anxiety, which is the tendency for an individual to be anxious often. Trait anxiety responds to long-term treatment.
The Benefits of Massage:
The reason for massage therapy’s efficacy is not fully understood, but researchers have discovered a number of exciting facts about this. One proposed solution to the question of how massage soothes the psyche has to do with its observed effect on oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone responsible for feelings of social closeness and associates with reduced anxiety levels.
Furthermore, one EEG study found that areas of the brain associated with alertness ‘light up’ after administration of massage. Some subjects even experienced a temporary increase in math skills. This therefore suggests an increase in focus. Distraction itself also links to anxiety (think of ‘test anxiety’ and how hard it can be to problem-solve under stress). A focused mind can be a very useful tool against anxiety, and studies have clearly linked reduced focus to both depression and anxiety disorders.
Also possibly related to massage’s efficacy against symptomatic anxiety is the fact that massage indirectly stimulates the vagus nerve. This is our body’s longest nerve, extending through most of the major systems of your body. Stimulation of the vagus nerve causes a reduction in cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that builds up in your body during prolonged periods of stress, linking to mood disorders as well as chronic pain. All of these tangible benefits go hand in hand with the fact that, unlike some treatments, the experience of massage itself can often be extremely pleasant.
Body and Mind:
Of course, it is true that physical pain can be a contributing factor to anxiety and vice versa. This is why massage can have the secondary impact of helping to relieve the emotional complications of an injury or condition. At CORE, we believe in an inseparable link between physical and mental wellness. Negative feelings and physical pain then transmit to the same nervous system. It is in massage therapy that we have the chance to treat body and mind in the most simultaneous way. If anxiety is getting in the way of giving your full concentration to school or work, then scheduling with one of our massage practitioners is worth trying. You may experience short-term relief, or even feel compelled to try multiple sessions.
CORE’s Signature Swedish massage uses long, broad strokes across the body and relaxes the patient. We also offer a variety of other massage modalities, which can be found in detail on our website. If you have never received a massage at CORE, we have an introductory special of 1 Swedish massage for $65 or a package of 3 for $147, with upgrade options available. To find out which massage is best for you, contact our expert wellness team by calling 831-425-9500 for a free consultation.
Andrews, Bernice and Wilding, John M. ‘The relation of depression and anxiety to life‐stress and achievement in students.’ Wiley Digital Archives, 24 December 2010. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1348/0007126042369802
Beavin, LE, et al. ‘Massage increases oxytocin and reduces adrenocorticotropin hormone in humans.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Nov.-Dec. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23251939
Burman, I, et al. ‘Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Sep. 1996. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8884390
Field, Tiffany. ‘Massage therapy research review.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Apr. 23 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5564319/
Hannum, JW, et al. ‘A meta-analysis of massage therapy research.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0021649/