Massage Therapy in The Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders

massage-therapyThousands of people are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder each year. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 18.5% percent of the adult population in the U.S. experiences a mental condition in any given year.

As the epidemic of mental disorders threatens to engulf many more, those affected are resorting to holistic treatment approaches like meditation and massage therapy. In the following post, we’ll explain how massage is being used to treat psychiatric disorders and the resulting benefits.

What is the Role of Massage Therapy in Treating Mental Health Conditions?

One of the main applications of massage in the area of mental health is the reduction of symptoms of depression. Based on a study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, massage therapy can significantly reduce some of the symptoms experienced by depressed individuals.

Having said that, it’s best used as complementary rather than the main form of treatment for depression. As experts explain, massage therapy cannot provide long-term relief for depression. Thus, it should be used alongside other treatments such as medication or cognitive behavior therapy.

Another benefit of massage therapy for persons suffering from psychiatric disorders is that it increases the feel good hormone while reducing stress hormones.

In a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, researchers discovered that massage therapy can increase serotonin levels by 28% and dopamine by 31%. It also decreases cortisol levels by 31%.

Serotonin is a hormone that helps to stabilize mood and promote good sleep patterns. Similarly, dopamine is often referred to as the “happy chemical” as it’s the one responsible for feelings of happiness. On the other hand, cortisol is regarded as the main stress hormone. It’s responsible for the spike in your blood pressure and heart rate when you’re experiencing stress.

Luckily, the findings show that for people with psychiatric disorders, one of the best ways to increase the feel-good transmitter and decrease stress is by going for a massage session.

What are the Risks of Massage Therapy?

The main reason why massage therapy has become so popular for treating different conditions is because it’s low-risk. Compared to other complementary forms of treatment like acupuncture– which can cause bleeding and bruising- massage rarely causes any side effects.

The only thing you might experience is a bit of soreness after the massage. But this won’t last long, and you might not even experience it once you get used to this therapy. Also, you won’t feel any pain or discomfort during the massage session.

That said, it’s crucial that you schedule your sessions with a licensed or certified massage therapist. This way, you’re guaranteed of getting treatment from a qualified practitioner who’s familiar with the standards and requirements of this treatment plan.

What Kind of Massage Works Best?

If you’re thinking of scheduling an appointment, there are many different types of massages that target physical conditions as well as psychiatric disorders.

Even though some forms of massage- such as craniosacral therapy and the Rosen method– are the most recommended, any full body relaxation massage can significantly improve your mental wellbeing.

As mentioned earlier, massage therapy mostly provides short-term relief. So to fully benefit from this kind of treatment, experts recommend making the massage sessions a regular. Although more research needs to be done to determine the right amount of frequency, a weekly or monthly massage session can help you reap the benefits.

Is Massage Therapy Right for Me?

If you have a psychiatric disorder, you might be wondering whether massage therapy can help you. For many who suffer from depression or anxiety, this treatment has been proven to be highly effective.

However, if you have issues with touch or being enclosed in dark/small spaces like a massage room, you should consult your physician before resorting to this treatment. For such instances, it’s important that the massage therapist tailors the session to your specific needs.

A good massage therapist is one who will read up on your condition before choosing the massage technique to use. But, you also have to be forthcoming and provide all the necessary information that relates to the psychiatric disorder you’re suffering from.

Final Word

Brush off any thoughts that massage is only a way of pampering yourself. Its power to help you relax and release tension means it’s an effective tool for treating an array of conditions including psychiatric disorders.

But, it’s important that massage therapy be used as complementary or integrative treatment. In other words, it should be used alongside the standard treatment for the specific illness you’re diagnosed with. Similarly, patients should reveal their medical history to their massage therapists. This helps the practitioner to tailor the sessions to the patients’ needs.  

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Last Updated on October 26, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD