Massage for Depression

Mild depression and anxiety are both conditions where GP’s are experiencing gaps in their effectiveness. They are chronic (long term) conditions that GP’s find the have limited ability to resolve and yet their patients are regularly attending their surgeries. 

It is time to consider alternative options for the treatment of depression and anxiety and massage therapy is highly indicated (beneficial). 

Massage has a powerful effect on the endocrine system. It increases levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. In a study on massage therapy by the Touch Research Institute at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine, serotonin levels in the test subjects increased by 28 percent, dopamine by 31 percent.

Serotonin – This hormone positively affects emotions and thoughts. It is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the brain and body functions, producing a general sense of well-being. The ‘happy hormone

Dopamine – This neurotransmitter helps regulate mood, attention, learning and sleep and is vital in the body’s control of movement. It is also believed to release endorphins, chemicals that allow us to feel pleasure. The ‘feel good hormone.

Oxytocin – This has been dubbed the “hugging hormone,” as it produces feelings of calm and contentment. The initial feeling of well-being from a massage is produced by the release of oxytocin from the posterior pituitary. Oxytocin imparts a feeling of being ‘unstressed’, loved and loving.

Whilst massage causes an increase in these neurotransmitters, it also decreases the levels of less desirable chemicals; cortisol and substance P.

Cortisol – Stress affects the brain by releasing cortisol, often referred to as “the stress hormone”, which negatively affects many systems throughout the body. It is secreted into the bloodstream during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stressful situations. Long term exposure to cortisol can result in sleep problems, depression, increased heart rate, affecting heart, lungs, circulatory and digestive systems and is also associated with a weakened immune system.

Substance P – This is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that transmits pain signals from sensory nerve ending to the central nervous system, i.e. its function is to cause pain. It has been implicated in inflammatory conditions and is believed to be involved in the regulation of pain, stress and anxiety. Massage has been shown to decrease substance P levels (10), contributing to pain relief.

Dr. Mason Turner, Chief of Psychiatry, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, said that massage therapy can help with depression by relieving muscle tension and improving physical health, which is important to helping the body relax so the mind can relax. Massage, he said, helps with the body-mind connection, which can improve overall health and aid in stress management.

“Anything that helps the person connect their mind and body together can be helpful,” he said.

Depression can often result from extreme stress and massage as an intense form of relaxation can reverse the stress response by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. which slows down the heart rate, the rate of breathing, lowers blood pressure and stimulates digestion and immunity.

We can conclude that massage would be highly beneficial for the person suffering depression, and may well provide the lift the needed to help the person manage their depression more effectively.

This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.