Massage Therapy for Anxiety

Image Credit: Edvard Munch - Anxiety (1894)

Image Credit: Edvard Munch - Anxiety (1894)

The RMT Education Project is an initiative to promote the benefits of massage therapy to an international audience. It is not uncommon for people who suffer from anxiety to use complementary and integrative approaches to manage symptoms and improve their well-being. So in this post I have to put together a list of research papers relevant to massage therapy and anxiety.

Massage Can be a Source of Safety, Comfort and Relief

The importance of touch can not be understated, emerging research indicates that massage therapy can improve health related quality of life for people with anxiety. 

Recent research carried out has shown that five sessions of massage therapy was clinically effective in decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (Rapaport et al. 2016)

Why Does Massage Therapy Work for Generalized Anxiety?

Affective touch gives the nervous system an opportunity to recalibrate threat levels and suppress pain. A biopsychosocial model of massage therapy helps put into context the interconnected and multidirectional interaction between: physiology, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, culture, and beliefs. 

Proposed Therapeutic Mechanisms of Massage.

More to Explore

Calsius et al. (2016). Touching the Lived Body in Patients with Medically Unexplained Symptoms. How an Integration of Hands-on Bodywork and Body Awareness in Psychotherapy may Help People with Alexithymia. Frontiers in Psychology.

de Oliveira et al. (2018). Massage therapy in cortisol circadian rhythm, pain intensity, perceived stress index and  quality of life of fibromyalgia syndrome patients. Complement Ther Clin Pract.

Field, T. (2016). Massage therapy research review. Complement Ther Clin Pract. (OPEN ACCESS)

Jayakody et al. (2014). Exercise for anxiety disorders: systematic review. Br J Sports Med.

Lorenc et al. (2018). Scoping review of systematic reviews of complementary medicine for musculoskeletal and mental health conditions. BMJ Open.

Mącznik et al. (2017). Does Acupressure Hit the Mark? A Three-Arm Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acupressure for Pain and Anxiety Relief in Athletes With Acute Musculoskeletal Sports Injuries. Clin J Sport Med.

Moraska et al. (2010). Physiological adjustments to stress measures following massage therapy: a review of the literature. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (OPEN ACCESS)

Moyer, C.A. (2008). Affective massage therapy. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. (OPEN ACCESS) 

Moyer et al. (2004). A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychol Bull.

Rapaport et al. (2016). Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Proof-of-Concept, Randomized Controlled Study. J Clin Psychiatry.

Sherman et al. (2010). Effectiveness of therapeutic massage for generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Depress Anxiety. (OPEN ACCESS)

Stein, M.B., & Craske, M.G. (2017). Treating Anxiety in 2017: Optimizing Care to Improve Outcomes. JAMA.