Depression can be a traumatic and sometimes lifelong condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it can even exacerbate the symptoms of or prolong the course of other chronic illnesses like cancer, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. The important thing to know about a condition like depression though is that there are a lot of holistic treatment options out there to help combat some of the symptoms. Massage therapy is one of those options that have the ability to work with a person’s bodily structure as well as their biochemistry to improve general wellness.
A Sense of Support
One of the common symptoms experienced by those suffering from depression is the feeling that they are not supported. This can mean that they feel alone in the world or that the social structure that they are a part of just does not understand their pain. Massage therapy works to treat that specific symptom physically through targeted realignment of your muscles and joints. Massage Today says that, “Key areas to release for structural support are: 1) the abdomen and diaphragmatic arch; 2) the musculature and connective tissue of the front of the chest that cause a sunken chest and medial rotation of the shoulders; 3) the musculature and connective tissue of the anterior shoulder and upper arms that cause an internal rotation of the arms; and 4) the musculature and connective tissue of the anterior neck followed by the posterior neck and top of the shoulders.” Making this structural change in a depressed person will help begin to alter their internal support system, which will in turn provide a stronger foundation for general mind body wellness. In addition, the quiet and soothing touch of a skilled massage therapist can impart a warmth on a person suffering from symptoms of depression that may help them feel closer to others and to themselves.
Depression and Biochemistry
Some of the causes of depression come from hormonal reactions within our bodies that induce stress and that we unfortunately cannot see. When our bodies are stressed and our immune systems are taxed, it becomes more difficult to fight of physical infection as well as mental health issues. Cortisol is a stress hormone present in our bodies that when at elevated levels, can cause high blood pressure and blood sugar which in turn lowers our bodies immune response and can lead to heightened feelings of depression. Massage has been shown to lower cortisol levels by up to 53% in a study done by the University of Miami School of Medicine. At the same time, massage therapy can also help stimulate and increase serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters that have the ability to reduce stress.
It is important to remember though that massage is just one part of a total holistic approach. It is always smart to include your primary care physician as well as a mental health specialist in any treatment plan when dealing with issues like depression.
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