Can Massage Ease Anxiety?

Back in the days of the cave bear and the saber-toothed cat, the human body evolved to respond to danger from an attack by either fleeing or fighting. Both these actions require extra levels of adrenaline and cortisol, together known as the “stress hormones,” which suppress the immune system and increase blood sugar levels, keeping our muscles ready for fight or flight. In those times, stress was a good thing. It meant survival.

These days, we rarely encounter wild predators or anything else in our environment that literally requires fight or flight. Nevertheless, in response to stressful circumstances of everyday living, our body still produces stress hormones. Sustained in high levels, that can lead to digestive problems, headaches and insomnia and more. These issues often include GAD: Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) presents as worry, nervousness or unease not proportional to observable causes. It affects about 6.8 million American adults—twice as many women as men. Its onset occurs gradually, beginning typically between childhood and middle age. Researchers are not clear about what brings on anxiety disorders. Genetics may be a factor, and environmental stress another. 

GAD sufferers worry about a variety of things: health issues, money, family problems or difficulties on the job. They often carry this worry as muscle tension in shoulders, back and neck. They may also suffer from a host of other problems, such as fatigue, headaches, difficulty swallowing, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, frequent urination, hot flashes and shortness of breath. Sustained over months of time, these issues become chronic and difficult to address and are then officially classified as GAD. 

The Biochemical Benefits of Massage 

By its very nature, massage therapy including massage chair treatment often has a calming effect on anxious patients. Gentle pressure on tissues acts to cleanse the body of impurities and help break down built-up toxins or waste in muscles. As it decreases cortisol levels, massage increases your body’s levels of oxytocin and serotonin, which results in lowered stress. The feeling of relaxation created by regular massage therapy also lowers your blood pressure and elevates your mood.

When you relax, your nervous system responds with a lower heart rate and improved breathing. Deep sleep comes more easily because your “muscle memory” can recreate at other times the physiological conditions achieved during massage, enabling you to enjoy an overall healthier life.

Massage Helps You Manage Stress

Even today, not all stress is bad: it helps to be vigilant in the pedestrian crosswalk. Nor is it possible to eliminate stress altogether. The solution therefore is to manage stress. Massage therapy is an effective, pleasurable way to do just that. 

“Massage for Anxiety.”, Massage Envy,

Kecskes, Alex A. “Therapeutic Massage for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Pacific College, 18 Dec. 2017,

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