Can Massage Relieve Symptoms of Depression?

Depression can be an expensive and devastating condition, in part because of the effect depressive illness can have on overall health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Depression can adversely affect the course and outcome of common chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Depression also can result in increased work absenteeism, short-term disability, and decreased productivity.”

The CDC has found that depression affects 1 in 10 adults in the US.

How Does Depression Present?

Not all people with depressive illnesses will have the same symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health states, “The severity, frequency and duration of symptoms will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.”

Some of these include general and persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings, feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism, feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness, and irritability or restlessness. Other symptoms are more behavioral. These include loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex, difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions, overeating, or appetite loss, insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping. Physiological symptoms include persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment3

Any of these might lead to thoughts of suicide, or to suicide attempts.

Can Massage Therapy Help?

According to a WebMD review of more than a dozen studies, massage is as important for people dealing with depression as it is for people dealing with arthritis, sports injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. These studies found that massage therapy can fight depression by lowering cortisol levels.

Cortisol: Natural but not Beneficial

Cortisol is the body’s natural response to stress. Studies have shown that massage therapy lowers it by as much as 50%. At the same time, massage can also increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters that help stabilize mood. Both results are beneficial. By lowering cortisol and increasing serotonin, you boost your body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness while positively impacting those symptoms—emotional, behavioral and physiological—listed above. In fact, the emotional balance massage provides can be just as vital and valuable as the physical benefits. 

Stress: A Fact of Life

Stress is an inevitable part of life, virtually impossible to avoid. And some kinds of stress are actually good for us. But as stress accumulates, unless it is addressed somehow, it can be debilitating, as we have seen. Massage therapy, including what you enjoy from a premium massage chair, is a proven antidote to the symptoms of stress and can help you manage its causes more effectively. Massage provides a safe and nurturing opportunity for individuals to relax, refocus and find clarity. It can increase awareness of the mind-body connection. Massage can generate confidence and enhance self-image and self-worth. 

Take time for massage: for a breath and for your health.

“Can Massage Relieve Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety and Stress?” How Nutrients Impact Physical Performance – Mayo Clinic Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System, 25 June 2014,

“Massage Can Reduce Symptoms of Depression | American Massage Therapy Association.”– American Massage Therapy Association, Oct. 2011,

“Massage For Depression.”, Massage Envy,

“Health by the Numbers: Depression.” QualityHealth – Health Information, Center For Disease Control, 23 Mar. 2011,

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