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 rmtfind.com 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.