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  • Writer's pictureDenise Eimerman

Massage and Mental Health

Mental health is always in the headlines, and for a very good reason; many Americans will have to deal with a mental health issue at some point in their lives. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) approximately 1 in 5 US adults (46.6 million) will experience some form of mental illness in any given year. Around 1 in 25 adults (11.2 million) will experience a serious mental illness in any given year that significantly interferes with or limits their major life activities.

it’s worth knowing that along with the right support from medical professionals, self-care and the correct medication if needed, massage may have a part to play in supporting mental health. Research has shown that massage therapy can really help people who are dealing with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Depression and Anxiety

Two of the most commonly reported mental health issues in the US and beyond are depression and anxiety. Studies have been hopeful in suggesting that massage may play a part in helping relieve the symptoms while you address the cause. Researchers at Taiwan’s E-Da Hospital and College of Medicine looked at 17 separate scientific studies and came to the conclusion that massage had many positive benefits for people experiencing depression – and that regular massage could potentially lead to a reduction in their symptoms. Another study found that massage seemed to activate the sympathetic nervous system, which helped to improve mood and reduce anxiety levels.

Experts think that massage therapy works by activating neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that naturally decrease anxiety and lower the levels of stress hormones in your body. Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine, revealed that massage therapy also worked well for people who were dealing with eating disorders and stress too.

The research team found that brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine levels increased by an impressive 30 per cent or so in the people who had massage therapy as part of their treatment, and that their levels of the stress hormone cortisol dropped. Experts seem to agree that massage increases the feel-good hormones while zapping the stress related ones.

Massage Works for Mental Illness and Physical Illness

If you’re dealing with serious and/or life-threatening illness, it can often lead to depression or anxiety. Sadly, it doesn’t help, and can often make things even worse. Having a massage may not be a cure for all ills but what it can do is help someone dealing with a serious illness, and unpleasant symptoms, to improve their quality of life

Healthcare providers often recommend massage therapy to people because of the minimal risk of side effects – this means that along with the benefits of a massage, there’s very little likelihood of the massage causing any kind of interaction or side effects so it can be used safely alongside medical treatments.

At the Columbia University Medical Center, experts studied children who were coping with cancer and they discovered that massage therapy seemed to help them to manage many of the unpleasant side effects of their cancer treatment, including pain, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and reduced immune function.

So, if you’re dealing with mental health issues, why not consider adding a regular massage to your treatment options?

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