Touch, whether it is a pat on the back or a hug, is an instinctive response to comforting a person. Given that, it should not be surprising that touch, in the form of massage therapy can be quite helpful in treating anxiety and depression.
Meta-analysis of studies into the health benefits of massage showed that patients receiving a sustained course of massage therapy treatment fared as well as those receiving a more traditional course of psychotherapy treatment for depression and anxiety.
Twice-weekly massages before delivery decreased new mothers’ incidence of postpartum depression. Further, the massage regimen decreased the chances of premature delivery.
Massage increases serotonin levels, the same hormone whose availability is increased with SSRI drugs such as Prozac. Current studies on the topic do not suggest that massage can or should completely replace medication for treating clinical depression; however, massage can be a useful complement to the treatment regimen.
While scientific support is thin, the philosophy behind traditional eastern medicine, including shiatsu massage and acupressure massage, encourages bringing a person’s energy back into balance, and sees mood disorders such as anxiety and depression as manifestations of an energy imbalance.
When seeking out massage to help with treatment of anxiety and depression, it is important to find a skilled massage therapist. Certainly, a therapist who does not put clients at ease will not help clinical anxiety. Even more, some abdominal massage techniques can make depression worse.