Massage has long been known to relieve the symptoms of stress. Massage programs have been linked to a reduction in the levels of the hormone cortisol, which is released by the adrenal gland in response to stressful situations. So less of it means less stress.
But new research shows massage therapy can help one of the most common mental health problems. The research indicates that just five sessions of Swedish massage therapy can improve the symptoms of chronic anxiety. Participants in the study also saw a reduction in the symptoms of depression.
Swedish massage is the most common form of deep-tissue massage therapy and is the basis of most other types of massage treatments offered in Canada.
One of the study’s authors, Prof. Mark Hyman Rapaport, said: “These finding are significant and if replicated in a larger study will have important ramifications for patients and providers.”
The study was conducted on 47 patients diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People suffering from GAD experience near-constant anxiety. Sufferers report negative thoughts interfering with their ability to function normally throughout the day. Typically, GAD is treated with psychotherapy and/or medication.
In the study, one group of participants received Swedish massage and another group received light-touch therapy. Both groups were treated in 45 minute sessions, twice a week for six weeks.
The study’s results showed that the Swedish massage group experienced reduced anxiety and fewer symptoms of depression versus the light-touch group.
These latest findings add to a growing list of physical, mental and emotional benefits enjoyed by those who receive regular massage therapy. Cortisol also suppresses the immune system, so massage has been shown to boost immune response. In addition to treating muscle and joint pains and strains, massage has also proved effective against migraine headaches, circulatory and respiratory conditions and it can even help expectant mothers have an easier labour.