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Anxiety and Massage

anxiety and massage

Anxiety, stress, insomnia, depression.  These things can make everything else in life so much more challenging.

The mind is powerful. Chemical balance and imbalances do matter. Regardless of how you feel, we want you to feel better, live better, and if it’s affecting your physical activity – then move better too!

Caring touch delivered in a therapeutic way in a safe environment is powerful too.  I’m sure you’ve probably heard the story of the babies in a science experiment a long time ago who were deprived of human touch but given everything else they need to survive… they didn’t do so well sadly.  I don’t think that changes as we get older.  One of the beauties of massage is that it is human touch (unless of course, it is a massage chair or some other tool..).  Everyone I have spoken to says, “It’s not the same.” if they’ve used a massage tool of some kind; even self-massage isn’t the same! Don’t get me wrong, those tools are still really helpful to manage tension and I promote the use of them.  But there is something irreplaceable about a good massage from a good therapist.

Let’s talk a bit about the chemicals in your body. 

“Oxytocin acts as a chemical messenger and has been shown to be important in human behaviours including sexual arousal, recognition, trust, anxiety and mother-infant bonding.  As a result, oxytocin has been called the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical’.”

Low oxytocin has been linked to depressive behaviours.  Studies have been done which show that massage increases oxytocin levels. [1]

Low levels of the brain chemical serotonin can also contribute to feeling depressed, anxious, or having difficulty sleeping.  Serotonin helps balance mood and regulate digestion.  Then there is dopamine which has that positive, rewarding effect on the brain. When levels of dopamine are low it is associated with poor focus, lack of motivation and energy. Studies have shown that massage can help increase dopamine and serotonin by almost 30%!

While increasing these positive brain chemicals, massage also helps decrease the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your body.  This is important because although cortisol is good and helpful for short-term situations where your body needs to respond to a stressful situation, a long-term release of cortisol can impact on immunity (a.k.a. healing and fighting off disease!), increased blood pressure, and the ability to maintain a healthy weight.

If you are feeling lethargic and your goal is to renew energy, be able to focus better and feel better, then I would recommend a shorter massage time for you.  30 minutes can be enough time to help pick up your mood without leaving you totally zonked.   If you have had trouble sleeping, are struggling with stress and really need time to recover mentally and physically then I would recommend a longer treatment to allow your body to go beyond the initial stimulus and enter into the relaxing effects of massage.

Written by – Anna Zayas – Remedial Massage Therapist


[1] Massage increases oxytocin and reduces adrenocorticotropin hormone in humans
Neurohormonal Effect of Massage Therapy
Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy 
How Massage Affects Your Mood





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