How massage reduces anxiety
Any good friend or massage therapist will tell that if you’re stressed, you should get a massage. That special person you cozy up with on the couch might rub your shoulders when they recognize you are anxious. Does it really work? Why does it work? Is there any actual research to back up these claims?
Research points to the reduction of cortisol as the key. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal gland and helps your body in many ways. It is often elevated in every day stressful situations to help your body cope with intense situations. However, chronic stress leads to prolonged increases in cortisol levels. This can lead to negative effects in the body such as slowed cognitive abilities.
Multiple studies have found that measures of cortisol levels decreased in people after regular massage sessions. The studies also found that massage can help the body obtain a more balanced level of other biochemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. One study, “Depression and Anxiety”, states stress levels were lower after massage, as they were after other similar relaxation techniques.
What does this mean in plain English? Massages can calm you down. Massage can help your body get out of the fight or flight response. As well as slow the production of cortisol, massage also helps produce the chemicals that are good for the body during non-emergency situations. If you are experiencing chronic stress, like many of us are, massage is one of many ways to relax and rejuvenate yourself.