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Massage therapy is commonly used for relaxation and pain relief, in addition to a variety of health conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and inflammation after exercise. Massage therapy can also be an effective therapy for aspects of mental health. Recent research suggests that symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression may be positively affected with massage therapy.

Here are some recent research findings which highlight the role of massage therapy in mental health and wellness, compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association.

Massage Therapy for Depression in Individuals With HIV

Research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicates that massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression for individuals with HIV disease. The study lasted eight weeks, and results show massage significantly reduced the severity of depression beginning at week four and continuing at weeks six and eight. American Massage Therapy Association President Winona Bontrager says of the study, “This research suggests that regular therapeutic massage could be a useful tool in the integrated treatment of depression for patients with HIV.”

Massage Therapy to Reduce Anxiety in Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy

Research published in Applied Nursing Research shows that back massage given during chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety and acute fatigue. “This research demonstrates the potential value of massage therapy within the full cancer treatment spectrum, particularly during the often mentally and physically exhausting chemotherapy process,” says American Massage Therapy Association President Winona Bontrager.

Massage Therapy for Reduced Anxiety and Depression in Military Veterans

Research published in Military Medicine reports that military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage. Analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage. This pilot study was a self-directed program of integrative therapies for National Guard personnel to support reintegration and resilience after return from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Massage Therapy for Nurses to Reduce Work-Related Stress

Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice shows that massage for nurses during work hours can help to reduce stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. “This study affirms the important role massage therapy can play in the work setting, in this case to ease stress for health care providers who, in turn, can better provide optimal patient care,” says Bontrager.

Article reprint from amtamassage.org, research roundup.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

Whether it’s the changing of the seasons or more long-term, chronic feelings of anxiety and depression, recent research is showing that massage therapy can help improve mood and reset circadian rhythms, which can lead to better sleep and more energy.

Improved Mood

A randomized study of 34 women with stage 1 or 2 breast cancer examined how massage therapy impacted depression and anxiety levels. The massage therapy group received a 30-minute massage three times per week for five weeks, which consisted of stroking, squeezing and stretching techniques to the head, arms, legs, feet and back. The control group received no intervention. Study participants were assessed on the first and last day of the study, and assessment included both immediate effects measures of anxiety, depressed mood and vigor, as well as longer term effects on depression, anxiety and hostility, functioning, body image and coping styles. A subset of 27 women also had blood drawn to examine additional measures.

The immediate massage therapy effects included reduced anxiety, depressed mood and anger. Longer term effects included reduced depression and hostility, as well as increased serotonin values, NK cell number and lymphocytes. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter with functions in various parts of the body, works to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning.

Better Sleep

In another study examining the effect of massage therapy on the adjustment of circadian rhythms in full-term infants, researchers measured the rest-activity cycles of infants before and after 14 days of massage therapy, starting at 10 days old and again at six and eight weeks of age.

Rest-activity cycles were measured by actigraphy, and 6-sulphatoxymelatonin excretion was assessed in urine samples at six and eight weeks of age. The concentration of 6-sulphatoxymelatonin in urine correlates well with the level of melatonin in the blood, and melatonin is what helps control sleep and wake cycles.

At 12 weeks, nocturnal 6-sulphatoxymelatonin excretions were significantly higher in the infants receiving massage therapy than those in the control group, suggesting that massage therapy can enhance coordination of the developing circadian system with environmental cues.

References

Hernandezreif, M. 2004. Breast cancer patients have improved immune and neuroendocrine functions following massage therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 45–52.
Ferber, S., Laudon, M., Kuint, J., Weller, A., Zisapel, N. 2002. Massage therapy by mothers enhances the adjustment of circadian rhythms to the nocturnal period in full-term infants. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 410–415.

Article reprint from Massage Therapy Journal, Spring 2016


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.

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