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In recent years, there has been a growing focus on identifying, treating, and removing stigma from mental health as a way to improve overall wellness. More people are realizing that certain behaviors are not the result of poor decision making or personality defects, but rather the result of mental illness that can – and should – be treated just the same as a physical illness or disease would be treated. Therefore, fewer people are treating depression like something that people should just snap out of.
In addition to psychotherapy and the proper medication, there are many ways that people can manage their depression through lifestyle changes and alternative therapies. Diet and exercise have been shown to help, as has meditation. Numerous studies have also shown that massage therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. If you’re a massage therapist, that means you might want to start searching for spa equipment to expand your practice to offer more services for depression and anxiety. If you are a person suffering from depression, that means you might want to start scheduling regular massage as part of your routine self-care.
Here’s what the research tells us about how massage therapy can help treat depression:
Stress is a known trigger for depression and anxiety. Chronic stress can exacerbate depression or trigger an episode, as can acute stress in some instances. Getting regular massage can help to reduce stress, which enhance the overall treatment plan for managing depression.
Specifically, massage helps to relax the body and to reduce levels of cortisol, which is the hormone released during times of stress. When you feel stress, you are feeling the effects of cortisol. In the long term, continued exposure to cortisol can cause your depressive symptoms to appear or worsen and can increase the risk of other health problems, including metabolic issues and heart problems. In some cases, massage can reduce cortisol levels by as much as half.
Increase Dopamine and Serotonin
Dopamine and serotonin are important neurotransmitters that play a critical role in our moods. The treatment of depression often involves prescribing medications that control how dopamine and serotonin are released or used in our brains.
Massage therapy increases the levels of these so-called “feel good” hormones. By getting regular massage therapy, you can naturally increase the amount of serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which will improve your mood without the use of medication. You can get regular massage to enhance the effectiveness of your medication. In some cases, you may even be able to manage your depression with massage and other lifestyle changes alone, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Think about how you feel when you are in pain. It does more than cause you physical discomfort. It also brings down your whole mood. You feel irritable and maybe even a little angry. If you have chronic pain that brings down your mood regularly, that irritability and anger can turn to sadness and even depression.
Massage relieves chronic and acute pain, which can improve overall mood and wellness. Again, pain relief shouldn’t be considered a sole solution to treating depression, but it can enhance the overall treatment plan and improve results.
Focus on Self-Care
Therapists often urge patients whom they are treating for depression to put greater focus on self-care, which can be lacking when a person is suffering from depression. Therapists urge patients to do things like get more sleep, eat a healthier diet, exercise, and take time for themselves, all of which will improve positive feelings and give patients greater energy to deal with the lows that depression brings.
Massage helps patients put greater focus on self-care. It is a way for patients to take time for themselves and to treat their bodies well. Improved self-care will help to improve their sense of self-esteem and to reduce their depressive symptoms.
Massage therapy should be seen as a viable alternative therapy for depression and a number of other mental and physical health ailments. If you are suffering from depression, talk with your doctor or therapist about how massage therapy might help to manage your condition, either on its own or in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, therapies, and medications.