Pacific Wellness Toronto News

Massage for Emotional Well-being

Close up portrait of attractive young woman having relaxing facial massage. Therapist massaging woman’s head against bright colorful background.

A massage can be a great way to relax. But massage therapy can be used for much more than just a way to unwind.

Massage therapy can be helpful in treating various emotional issues and improve overall well-being.

Common Emotional Issues

Stress affects almost everyone at one time or another. Stressors may be one-time incidents, such as dealing with an illness or the loss of a job. But stress can also become chronic. Chronic stress may come from relationship problems, work issues or common factors, such as traffic and bills. In some cases, everyday stress may take its toll and lead to emotional problems.

When you are under immense stress, your body reacts to the stressor as if it were dangerous; physiological and hormonal changes take place. Your breathing and heart rate may increase, and your muscles tense up. This response is known as the flight or fight response—which can be useful in certain instances. But over time, chronic stress can lead to other issues, both physical and emotional.

As time goes on, stress can affect your digestive system, sleep, and suppress your immune system. It can also lead to emotional issues, such as depression, anger, and anxiety.

Conventional Treatment for Emotional Problems

Conventional treatment for emotional problems often involve the use of counseling and medications, including antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. In some cases, such as with severe depression or anxiety, medications may be needed, especially until mood is stabilized.

Although medications may be needed in certain instances, it can also have a downside. Side effects from medications for depression and anxiety can include weight gain, fatigue, and insomnia. Dry mouth, nausea, and a loss of libido may also occur. Plus, the use of medication may involve trial and error until the correct drug and dosages are found.

Counseling is also a common conventional treatment. Counseling can be an effective way to deal with emotional issues. But it can take several months to feel the benefits from counseling.

Emotional and Mental Health Benefits of Massage

Massage can have several emotional and mental health benefits. It can promote healing, decrease pain, and improve range of motion. When someone feels better physically, it can also help with emotional issues.

Decreased pain, a physical benefit of receiving massage therapy, may contribute to psychological improvement, because chronic pain can lead to psychological issues, including depression.

There are several additional emotional and mental health benefits of massage including the following:

Decreased depression and anxiety: Massage can be helpful in reducing symptoms of mild to moderate depression, in some people. The relaxing effects of massage can lead to the release of chemicals in the brain called endorphins, inducing feelings of calmness and relaxation. Massage therapy also may improve symptoms of anxiety. For example, according to the American Massage Therapy Association, studies indicate that massage can decrease anxiety in patients receiving cancer treatment.

Promote feelings of peace: Massage not only feels good, but it can also promote feelings of calm and peace. Regardless of the type of massage, it may increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of pleasure.

Reduce tension and stress: A massage can help bring awareness to areas of tension in your body. As your body relaxes, you may feel the stress and tension slip away. Massage may also cause a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol.

Improved energy: Improved energy can also boost your mood. Massage improves circulation, which can increase alertness and energy.


There are a few different factors to keep in mind if you are considering trying massage therapy to improve your emotional health. Make sure you choose the right type of massage for your symptoms. Various types of massage are beneficial for different reasons.

Swedish massage is often a good choice for relaxation and stress reduction. It involves medium pressure and manipulation of the soft tissue. Hot stone massage may also be a good choice to promote relaxation and improve emotional health.

Other types of massage including trigger point and deep tissue may be good options if pain is also an issue.

There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to which type of massage may work best to boost mental health.

Regardless of what type of massage you choose, it is important to speak to your massage therapist about your symptoms and any concerns you may have. You can locate a registered massage therapist (RMT) in Ontario through the through the registered Massage Therapists’ Association of Ontario (RMTAO). Your healthcare provider may also be able to make recommendations.

Keep in mind: massage therapy does not have to replace traditional treatment for emotional problems. It can be used alongside conventional treatments. One of the great things about using massage therapy as a complementary treatment is there are no major negative side effects and/or contraindications.

September Spotlight: Sluggish Thyroid, Sluggish You

 By Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND

Thyroid Issues illustrated with Chalk on Blackboard

As the fall approaches and summer comes to an end, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals, especially your health goals. The beginning of a new season is the perfect time to assess your overall health and take the opportunity to optimize it – specifically your thyroid health. The thyroid is an often overlooked organ that deserves time in the spotlight. An underactive or sluggish thyroid, also known as Hypothyroidism, can cause a variety of symptoms that may be mistakenly attributed to other conditions. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue/Lethargy
  • Low mood/depression
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning/brittle/or coarse hair
  • Weight gain
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Brittle nails

During a routine physical, your Medical Doctor (MD) will test your TSH level – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. A high TSH level suggests Hypothyroidism. The normal range for TSH is quite large in conventional medicine, and levels under 5mIU/L are not typically flagged as abnormal. Therefore, once your TSH reaches 5mIU/L or above, pharmacological treatment is initiated. It can take time for your TSH level to get that high – so you could be suffering from symptoms long before treatment. To Naturopathic Doctors (ND), we generally consider TSH levels above 1mIU/L abnormal. The reason for this is because there are often many signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction well below 5mIU/L. The technical name for this is “Sublaboratory Hypothyroidism.” In other words, the TSH level is within the conventional normal range, but the person is experiencing symptoms of an underactive thyroid. This is one advantage of seeing an ND – we identify dysfunctions and imbalances at an earlier stage, preventing you from suffering longer, only to eventually be prescribed a pharmaceutical drug.

The most common medication prescribed for hypothyroidism is Synthroid. Synthroid is generally a well tolerated, moderately effective drug to bring a patient’s TSH level into the normal range. However, many still suffer from hypothyroid symptoms, despite being on medication. New research is emerging that this is becoming a more common phenomenon, suggesting that Synthroid is not as effective as we once thought it was, even if a patient’s TSH is in the normal range. So you might think to yourself, “I am on medication, but I still don’t feel right.” This is a great opportunity for an ND to support your thyroid, whether you are on Synthroid or not. There are several dietary, vitamin, mineral, and herbal options to bring your TSH to the optimal level and improve your quality of life. Fortunately, many naturopathic therapies can be used alone or in conjunction with Synthroid to support your thyroid health and optimize how you feel.

If you think your thyroid may be out of balance, get tested through your MD and ask for a copy. Then make a visit with an ND to identify any issues and discuss options. Or, have testing done directly through an ND (not covered by OHIP, but often more efficient).

Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, provides nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments four days a week.  If you would like to detoxify and trim your body, improve your lifestyle or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment.  The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.