Massage for Emotional Wellbeing

by Tonya Madia

You are probably already aware that getting a massage can be a wonderful way to treat yourself to some relaxing me-time, however studies continue to prove the physical, and emotional benefits of even a single massage therapy session.

Because of the many purported benefits of massage therapy, research has or is being conducted on a wide range of areas.

If you’ve ever received a therapeutic massage you know how relaxing and rejuvenating one can be. Many people already understand the variety benefits of massage therapy, and the role it can play in:

• Relieving stress
• Promoting relaxation
• Relieving muscle tension
• Improving range of motion and flexibility in muscles
• Reducing blood pressure.
• Strengthening the immune system

In addition, recent research has shown that massage can decrease cortisol levels in the body while increasing the brain’s “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and has been termed “the stress hormone” because it is secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress. High and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to impair cognitive performance, suppress thyroid function and lower immunity and inflammatory responses.

A 2005 article in the International Journal of Neuroscience states:

“Massage therapy has been noted to significantly alter the biochemistry of humans both immediately following massage sessions and over the course of massage therapy treatment periods.”1

In the area of behavioral health treatments that include massage therapy are encouraging and studies have indicated that victims of PTSD show a significant decrease in physiological and physical symptoms, after massage and body-oriented therapy. Massage for clients with PTSD may help to restore feelings of safety, trust, control, self-worth and intimacy.

In addition studies on massage for chronic illnesses and emotional disturbance have shown a positive impact on anxiety level, depressed mood and biochemical imbalances.

Although research in the area of massage and emotional well being is very promising, it is important to remember that massage therapists do not diagnose illness, disease or any other physical or mental disorder. A massage is not a substitute for medical examination, diagnosis or treatment. Please talk with your physician or behavioral health care provider if you are interested in the benefits of massage.

1 Field, T. et al. (2005). Cortisol decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci., 115(10), 1397–1413.

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