How Massage Therapy Can Help Reduce Anxiety

Massage Therapy | Dundas University Health Clinic

What Is Massage Therapy For Anxiety?

Stress and life go together; it is quite impossible to eliminate stress in life. Stress is described as the physiological and psychological responses to situations that our body and mind find overwhelming. Even positive situations such as starting a new job, getting married or becoming a parent can cause stress. The problem arises when people struggle to cope with stressful situations. That’s when symptoms of anxiety and depression begin to be experienced. Experiencing these negative feelings causes us to feel tense and on edge.

One of the safe and effective ways of coping with stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia is massage therapy. Massage for stress and anxiety is more than just ‘pampering’. Massage therapy is a manual therapy that uses pressure and movement to relieve pain and improve function. Massage therapists use their hands, forearms, elbows, or sometimes feet to knead the muscles and soft tissues of the body. A form of relaxation, massage therapy allows our bodies to release the tension caused by stress.

As massage for anxiety and depression helps reduce the physical and mental effects of anxiety, it can help you feel more relaxed and capable of dealing with everyday stressors. The benefits of massage therapy for anxiety include improvement in overall mood.

Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety And Stress

Stressors we face in daily life such as meeting work deadlines, paying bills or fulfilling family obligations can trigger our fight-or-flight response. In the fight-or-flight mode, our body produces two hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make the body alert and ready for action. This evolutionary response helped early man survive dangerous situations. However, being in a constant fight-or-fight state is very unhealthy for our body and mind. Anxiety and stress cause physical symptoms such as making the muscles of the body tense, as well as causing headaches, neck pain, backache, or gastrointestinal issues. This weakens the mind and body and makes it difficult to lead a normal life.

Mental Symptoms Of Anxiety And Stress

Anxiety and stress also affect our mental health. Stress makes it difficult for us to concentrate on our work or to relax and sleep. As anxiety accumulates, it can lead to us feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. Unfortunately, these mental health issues can lead to depression or other mental health disorders.

Benefits Of Massage Therapy

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating the skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. It may range from light stroking to deep pressure. Massage for anxiety and depression promotes relaxation and brings many benefits for both the body and the mind.

The benefits of massage therapy for anxiety include a reduction in the following conditions:

  • Depression
  • Digestive disorders
  • Headache
  • Insomnia

Massage therapy for anxiety lowers the amount of cortisol in the body, which is the hormone produced when the body is stressed. Massage therapy also releases serotonin, known as the ‘happy chemical’ because it reduces feelings of depression and carries signals between nerves and your body. In this way, the body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness is boosted. Massage for anxiety and depression also fulfills the need for human contact and comforting touch. It can provide us with a safe and nurturing place to physically and mentally rest.

Among the emotional benefits of massage for stress and anxiety, it makes us feel relaxed and calmer. It helps refocus and find clarity. Besides lowering stress levels and feelings of anxiety, massage for anxiety can improve mood and relaxation while increasing confidence and self-image.

Types Of Massage Therapy To Reduce Anxiety

Your massage therapist will listen to your needs and concerns. A treatment plan of massage therapy for anxiety will be developed to decrease stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Massage for anxiety sessions can range from 15 minutes to 90 minutes duration.

Here’s a look at the types of massage for anxiety:

Swedish massage – In this therapy, long, flowing strokes are used to relax the muscles and ease tension.

Deep tissue massage – Slow, deep strokes are used to reach the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It helps to treat chronic pain and muscle tension.

Reflexology – This massage therapy focuses on the pressure points in the hands and feet. It is based on the belief that these pressure points are connected to other parts of the body. Massing these points in the hands and feet is believed to promote health in the corresponding parts of the body.

Shiatsu – Pressure and finger strokes are used on acupuncture points. Tension and stress relief are supposed to be the main benefits of this therapy.

Trigger point massage – This massage focuses on specific areas of muscle tension. It can relieve headaches and migraine pain caused by anxiety and stress.

Thai massage – Stretching and compression techniques are used to relax the muscles. This therapy help reduce stress, pain, and tension.

Hot stone massage – In this therapy, smooth, heated stones are placed on specific points of the body. The heat soothes and helps loosen tight, tensed muscles.

Chair massage – This therapy is recommended for those who are unable to lie down on a massage table. Given while the person is sitting in a special chair, it helps those who have high muscle tension.

Prenatal massage – Beneficial for pregnant women, it is designed to reduce stress and nausea, and improve circulation.

Can Anxiety Cause Depression?

Anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders. It is believed that anxiety can lead to depression. The physical symptoms of anxiety can make it difficult to lead a normal life. Due to the mental effects of anxiety we may find it difficult to concentrate or sleep. We could also feel overwhelmed and hopeless. These mental health issues can lead to depression.

Can Serotonin Reduce Anxiety?

Our mood is regulated by the hormone serotonin. There is a link between low levels of serotonin and depression and anxiety. Serotonin levels in our brain can be increased in a safe manner through massage therapy. Improved serotonin levels help our mental health and reduces anxiety, and also improve digestion, sleep, and bone health.


While anxiety is a normal feeling we experience from time to time, constant or overwhelming anxiety can become a problem. Massage therapy for anxiety is a safe and effective way to promote relaxation. The benefits of massage therapy for anxiety are many. Massage for stress and anxiety reduces the physical and mental effects of anxiety by releasing tension in the muscles and increasing levels of serotonin. Do seek out a qualified massage therapist to reduce stress and anxiety safely and effectively.