Anxiety disorders are at an all-time high in our society. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety effects 18.1% of the population. Anxiety, and the fight or flight, biological response it produces, is a natural, normal , response to perceived danger. Like most of our biological functions, its serves an important purpose to our survival. When danger is perceived, our body increases stress hormones, like cortisol, that are designed to enhance speed, reflexes, heart rate, and circulation. However, for some, this response can become excessive and negatively effect day to day living. When this happens, it is no longer a benefit to our survival and becomes detrimental to our health.
Current treatments for anxiety disorders include psychotherapy, medications, recommendations for eating nutritious foods that support brain function, and exercise. We are starting to see a trend in adding massage therapy to the treatment protocol. Recent studies have shown that massage therapy may play a vital role in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2016, proves that massage therapy creates significant symptom reduction. In the study, participants were divided into two groups. One group was given Swedish massage twice a week for 45 minutes, and the other given light touch therapy twice a week, over the course of 6 weeks. At the end of 6 weeks, participants who received the Swedish massage reported a significant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms. The recipients of the “light touch therapy” reported reductions in symptoms but not nearly as much as the Swedish recipients. In a press release, Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chair of Emory University of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, stated “These findings are significant and if replicated in a larger study will have important ramifications for patients and providers.”
You will experience feelings of bliss and euphoria during and after your massage. When receiving regular massage, these benefits do not just last during your massage, but have the potential to become a new baseline for your body. Here are a few examples of what is happening inside your body during a massage therapy session:
Cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone) are reduced by 30%.
Serotonin, your body’s natural pain killer and anxiety reducer, is increased by 28%.
Dopamine and oxytocin (our happy, feel-good hormone) are released at increased levels
Excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine are reduced dramatically.
Blood pressure is reduced and mood is elevated
Heart rate is lowered and breathing is improved
Many psychotherapy protocols for reducing GAD include learning how to become more aware of your thoughts and automatic responses. When an individual becomes aware of the thought processes that can be responsible for creating the excess anxiety response in their body, they can work to change those harmful thought patterns. When used in conjunction with professional psychotherapy, massage therapy serves as safe and nurturing place for you to cultivate this mind-body awareness and truly embody the discoveries made in your counseling sessions.
If you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, always consult with your physician. However, I encourage you to incorporate regular massage therapy sessions into your life. Massage therapy is a natural way to reduce anxiety symptoms and reach optimum levels of well-being. I specialize in therapeutic relaxation massage and offer a personalized approach to your healing. In addition to massage therapy, I will work with you to incorporate self-care and relaxation practices into your daily life.
I look forward to being a part of your journey to a healthier body, mind, & spirit!
In Peace & Health,
Nikki Terry, LMBT
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