Taking Care of Your Mental Health - A Look at Massage Therapy, Anxiety, and Depression

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Taking Care of Your Mental Health - A Look at Massage Therapy, Anxiety, and Depression

As a Registered Massage Therapist and healthcare provider, I see clients daily with physical injuries, pains, and dysfunctions. Coming for massage therapy to increase range of motion, decrease pain, and mobilize scar tissue are just a few of the common complaints that my clients present during our treatment. Increasingly, the population is seeking alternative medicine to ease their physical discomforts, but did you know that massage therapy can be an effective addition to your treatment plan when addressing your mental health and wellbeing?

Recently, Bell hosted it’s Let’s Talk campaign to promote awareness, and end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Although we as a society have come a long way regarding recognition and medical diagnosis of disorders such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, people are often reserved when it comes to openly discussing their mental health, and seeking treatment. Here’s some food for thought; The World Health Organization believes that depression affects 25% of women and 10% of men in their lifetime. They predict that depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide (heart disease being number one) by 2020. It is my hope that through trailblazing campaigns such as Bell’s Let’s Talk, and articles such as this one, more people who are struggling with their mental health will be empowered to seek treatment in the same manner that they would address a physical illness or injury.

So where does massage therapy come into play? Although there are many different types and causes behind both anxiety and depression, neurotransmitter imbalances are prominent. This means that the balance of hormones in the brain that modulate things such as perceived pleasure, pain, well-being, and stress are out of whack. Massage therapy has been proven to increase serotonin and oxytocin levels, your feel good hormones. Additionally, massage therapy decreases cortisol and norepinephrine secretions, known as ‘stress hormones’. Combined, these two effects of treatment move the levels closer to homeostasis, or balance, in the brain of a person suffering with anxiety and/or depression.

This is not to suggest that massage therapy should be used as an alternative treatment to medication or psychotherapy where mental illness is concerned. Two heads are better than one, and a 360 degree approach to healthcare in order to address all pieces of the puzzle will be the most effective treatment plan. If you’re suffering with your mental health, consider including massage therapy as an important part of your journey to wellness. Your therapist will work with you in a safe, judgment-free environment to optimize your health; physically, mentally, and emotionally.