Anxiety and Massage Therapy
While massage therapy is often recommended to treat the pain resulting from physical conditions, psychologically it is also effective for mild relaxation and overall wellbeing. However, massage therapy can also be helpful for the treatment of clinical anxiety conditions.
Along with more conventional treatments, massage therapy has been shown to help reduce stress and the symptoms associated with various anxiety disorders. Common types of massage can have major positive effects on patients.
How does anxiety work? While it is not uncommon to feel stress, anxiety, and even panic, some people struggle with high levels that have little or no connection to outside events. On an ongoing basis, this can start to feed on itself and seriously interfere with daily life. A major focus of treatment is helping to calm patients, whether to get them through particular stressful life events or to cope with chronic anxiety.
Clinical anxiety disorders involve anxiety that is out of proportion to any problems that might be going on in the individual’s life. This can lead to a variety of physical symptoms that can include:
- Muscle tension
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
The last two are more pronounced in panic disorders, which can also involve chest pain and nausea.
Most massage techniques are focused on relaxing and loosening the muscles, even though they employ strong pressure on these muscles. This feeling of physical relaxation can improve mindset as well. Physical relaxation can lessen the fight-or-flight mechanisms that tend to lead to psychological anxiety, calming heart rate and respiration and lowering muscle tension.
Types of massage
One of the most common styles is Swedish massage, which involves slower, longer kneading strokes on the top layer of muscle. Deep tissue massage is less rhythmic, but can be more intense and reach deeper layers of muscle or tendon. This can be very helpful for chronic tension. Hot stone massage involves letting warmed stones sit on particular spots on the body. Either these–or aromatherapy oils used topically–can make a massage more soothing.
Sometimes, the idea of massage treatment can itself produce anxiety. A good therapist can help put patients at ease, and many clinics have websites that describe their treatment options. Sometimes just having information about what to expect can reduce anxiety.
Massage therapy treatment can often help a patient to achieve a more relaxed state of being; this can then ease some of the physical symptoms that accompany chronic anxiety. Often, the effect is gradual and cumulative, so patients should be encouraged to work out a treatment plan and stay with it over time.
While massage may not be a conventional treatment for clinical anxiety disorders, it can often help. It can’t take the place of formal treatment by a medical specialists, it can contribute strongly to an individual’s overall health plan when it comes to the treatment of anxiety.