The Benefits of Massage on Depression


With depression, it is extremely important to seek the assistance of a mental health professional which may include talk therapy and/or the intervention of medication, to get to the root cause of the depression and “reset” the brain. Alongside this intervention, massage may have a positive impact by alleviating the physical symptoms associated with depression.

Depression is defined as a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. According to WebMD, depression is a brain disorder which can lead to emotional anguish. It changes the way your brain functions and can contribute to an array of physical problems, affecting everything from your heart to your immune system.

The physical symptoms from depression can be quite extensive and include the following:

  • An assortment of aches and pains
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Diminished interest in sex
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia, a lack of deep sleep or oversleeping

Why do these physical symptoms occur? Modifications in the brain fafect almost all of the body’s systems. The brain’s messengers, neurotransmitters like serotonin, can alter your pain threshold which makes you more sensitive to pain, particularly back pain. Serotonin also affects sleep and lowers sex drive.

In the older population, the physical symptoms of depression are often overlooked by family members and health care professionals and dismissed as a natural part of ageing.

Some of the physical changes caused by depression, like insomnia, are thought to weaken the immune system which can make existing illnesses worse. In turn, physical changes caused by either depression or chronic disease can trigger or worsen depression.

Several serious illnesses can coexist with depression including:
  • Heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Arthritis
Depression is a chronic stressor on the body which causes the sustained release of cortisol. Cortisol alters the balance of other neurotransmitters; it depletes dopamine and lowers serotonin.
A 60-minute massage can lower cortisol by an average of about 30%; when cortisol decreases, serotonin levels rise, increasing your body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness.

The chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Francisco, Dr. Mason Turner, suggests that regular massage therapy sessions can help treat depression by relieving muscle tension and improving physical health in addition to strengthening the body-mind connection.

If you think you may be suffering from depression, seek the services of a mental health professional. Work with your mental health professional to establish a consistent protocol based on psychotherapy, psychopharmacology (if needed) and massage therapy to help combat the negative effects of depression.

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Book Authored by Deidre Ann Johnson

Keep this handy book by your desk while working or in your carry on when travelling for tips to keep you flexible and pain free.

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