The Benefits of Massage for Depression

massage and depression

The Benefits of Massage for Depression


Depression is real.  It is sometimes hidden, but it is very, very real.

According to the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders), depression is a “mood disorder”.  It is an ” inner state of being fraught with despair and blocked with feeling that is wholly personal and exquisitely painful to the individual. “

Yes.  I am in touch with that emotion.

Andrew Solomon says that “perhaps depression can be best described as emotional pain that forces itself on us against our will and then breaks free of its externals.  Grief is depression in proportion to circumstances; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance”.  The unfortunate fact is that at some point in our lives, we will all be touched with grief and subsequent depression.

My story:  before I get into the tremendous benefits of massage therapy for depression, I want to reveal a little of my own personal battle with depression.  I have struggled with it for many years.  When I was 16, my grandmother passed away.  I was so close to her and her death devastated me.  I had never had to deal with death and it slapped me hard in the face.  I recovered but I struggled for a long time.  Since then, my private demon has always lurked a little in my foreground, rearing its ugly head on occasion.  Last fall, grief struck our family again with far more devastating consequences.  There the demon was again – grief.  Strong, emotional and seemingly unfathomable grief.  Tragedy is something you read about and think to yourself, oh, thank God that can never happen to me.  Then it does and everything you know, all your faith, it is tested.  When you already struggle with depression, grief and loss, and even anxiety can bring you to your knees in an instant.

As a massage therapist, I am in a place to heal people.  More often than not it is a physical healing.  But it can also be a powerful emotional healing.  Every person manifests and deals with depression differently.  Much like pain, it is an individual condition.  Women tend to report feelings of depression more often than men.  Men will tend to hold feelings closer to their vests and often go undiagnosed.  Children manifest depression.  And as the aging process takes its toll, our elderly manifest the most physical symptoms of depression.  Often they are misdiagnosed, or all together ignored.

There are many physical manifestations of depression.  Just a few include a tense, strained upper body; cold, clammy skin, especially in the extremities; a guarded and tight neck; TMJ and focused tension in one area of the body; and sensitivity to touch that becomes a noticeable emotional reaction.  Some conditions are also linked to depression: chronic pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, grinding teeth/TMJ, and “brain fog”.

Massage therapists are trained to recognize these symptoms.  We cannot diagnose and we are instructed to refer when necessary but there are still ways that we can help our clients that struggle with depression.  When persistent feelings of depression do not dissipate over time, or we cannot express our sadness because it is too painful, we begin to let that demon show its face.

Massage therapy does not cure depression.  We as therapists cannot cure any disease.  But massage therapy can significantly lessen the symptoms of depression.  In short, massage elicits the parasympathetic response, which allows us to release negative emotions in a safe environment.

Dr. Tiffany Field with the Touch Research Institute states that massage is an effective way to reduce the stress hormones in our bodies.  When we receive a massage, we have the chance to feel emotions that may be overwhelming during the experience of being touched.  We enter a zone of comfort and healing. What we need to remember is this:  it is okay to feel pain, and more importantly overwhelming feelings do and will pass.

Through massage we learn to focus on staying in the present moment.  We raise a healthy body awareness and we reduce the chronic stress response.  We learn to breathe deeply, slowly and mindfully and turn our attention inward to our bodies.  We become unhurried, accepted and grounded.

Depression is real.  And we should not be ashamed to accept or seek help.  We can fight that demon.

massage and depression

Massage Eases the Symptoms of Depression

I invite you to take time to be present right now.  Read this, then close your eyes, take a slow deep breath and remember that you are never alone and no mountain is too high to climb.  When you get a massage the next time, pay close attention to what you feel.  Truly allow yourself to let go and go to a place of unconditional acceptance of what is.

I also invite you to join me for my next webinar, tomorrow, Monday February 10 at 8pm EST.  I will be discussing the use of essential oils to manage your mood, your sleep and your stress.  The essential oils have made a significant difference in my life and my struggle with depression.  I hope to teach you a little bit about how they can help you as well.


My thanks to Pamela Fitch, BA, RMT, for her continuing education course, Massage Therapy for the Depressed Client.  I am grateful for her insights and her course served as the inspiration for this post.

massage and depression

Learn to let your breath ease your mind


Just breathe…….all will be well

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4 Responses to The Benefits of Massage for Depression

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