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Massage Can Help Negative Effects of Depression

Karyl Taylor, LMP MA60475800 Nov 10, 2014

I went to my friend to tell him I was going to write a blog on massage and I was wondering how to word it well! His advice was, “Tell them massage feels great! Boom, done!” While he is generally right, massage does feel great I wanted to get to the root of why it feels good.

I’m going to take a moment here to talk a little bit about depression. I’m not a doctor by any means so this is purely research I have done on my own. I tend to read a lot! First and foremost depression is awful. It’s highly misunderstood because you can’t see if someone is depressed. It is very internal and hard to explain to someone who has never been depressed.

So, what are some of the main causes of depression? Abuse (of any kind) (physical, sexual or verbal), personal conflict (disputes with family or friends), death or loss, major life events (moving, promotions, getting fired, etc.), personal problems, serious illness (cancer, terminal diseases), and chronic pain. While these are not the only factors involved with depression they incorporate a variety of possibilities.

The one thing all of these causes have in common is stress. Stress is the beginning of all sorts of illnesses and the body being run down. Stress can compromise your immune system, exhaust the body, and can even impair judgment. During prolonged periods of stress and anxiety the body will produce a hormone called cortisol. While cortisol is an important hormone in the body, a higher cortisol count for long periods of time will have negative effects on the body. Impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia, decreased bone density, a decrease in muscle tissue, lowered immunity, higher blood pressure, increased abdominal fat and other health issues. 

These negative effects from cortisol only happen if the body’s relaxation response doesn’t activate following stressful events. This is where massage has been proven to be helpful. The International Journal of Neuroscience came out with an article in October of 2005 reporting massage can decrease cortisol levels by 31%. After this report came out, the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami came out with several other studies showing massage can increase serotonin levels as well as dopamine levels. These hormones are considered the “feel good” hormones that are used as mood stabilizers. Serotonin increases self-confidence, feelings of happiness, relaxation and well-being. It has gained the nick name “happy neurotransmitter”. Dopamine helps increase feelings of happiness and plays an important role in the control of movement not to mention it is mostly found in the “reward based” area of the brain.

While these studies used several types of massage to see which styles showed the most results, Swedish massage was proven to be the most effective. This type of massage is more for relaxation and doesn’t have deep pressure involved.

Even though massage therapy has been known to have very few risks, there are some possible issues where massage is limited or even not allowed. Most of these risks deal with certain medical conditions and should be consulted with a physician prior to a massage session. This is also why it is also important to find a licensed massage therapist who is well trained in the massage techniques being performed. That being said, who’s ready for a massage?!

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