Effect of Therapeutic Massage on Mental Health
Zheng Zhu (Jason) Li, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist
The major mental health dysfunctions that affect Western society are trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, pain and fatigue syndromes, anxiety and depressive disorders as well as stress-related illness.
Massage intervention has a strong physiologic effect through the comfort of compassionate touch, in addition to a physical influence on mental state through the effect on the ANS – The Autonomic Nervous System and neurochemicals.
Neurochemicals such as serotonin and dopamine exert a strong influence on a person’s mental state. Therefore, people experiencing mental health problems may benefit from massage. Management of pain is also an important factor if the client is experiencing pain. Since therapeutic massage can often offer symptomatic relief from chronic pain, the helplessness that accompanies these difficulties may dissipate as the person realizes that management methods exist.
Soothing of any ANS hyperactivity or hypoactivity provides a sense of inner balance. Normalization of the breathing mechanism allows the client to breathe without restriction. This can reduce the tendency for breathing pattern disorder which feeds anxiety and panic.
Massage effectively reduces stress, pain and muscle tension. Researchers find that massage can help release endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers. It can also reduce the heart rate and may even impact the immune system. Research also shows that massage can help people coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder by improving mood and boosting energy levels.