18 January 2023

Massage and Mental Health

Massage is the practice of manipulating muscles and soft tissues of the body for therapeutic purposes. There are many types of massage, each with its own mental health benefits.


Swedish massage is one of the most common types of massage. It is designed to relax muscles and improve circulation. It can help relieve muscle and joint discomfort, reduce stress and improve mood.

Swedish massage can lower stress levels by increasing dopamine production in the brain. The stimulation of muscles and soft tissues through the kneading, rubbing and percussion movements of Swedish massage can activate the release of this pleasure hormone, which has a calming effect on the nervous system. It can also help reduce levels of adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones associated with stress.


Sports massage is designed to help athletes prepare for competition and recover after exercise. It aims to improve flexibility, mobility and physical performance. It can also work in muscle and joint stiffness. It can be particularly useful for people with exercise-related anxiety and depression.

Sports massage can lower stress levels by reducing muscle tension and improving blood circulation. The kneading, friction and percussion techniques used in sports massage help relax tired and sore muscles. This can help improve flexibility and mobility of joints, which can contribute to an overall sense of well-being. In addition, sports massage can also stimulate the production of endorphins, natural hormones that have an analgesic and euphoric effect, which can help reduce stress.


Thai massage is a therapeutic practice that combines massage, yoga and acupuncture techniques. It aims to improve flexibility, mobility and energy flow. It can help reduce muscle and joint discomfort and stiffness, improve concentration and reduce stress. It is often used to address stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Thai massage can lower stress levels by stimulating energy points (or "meridians") in the body. This type of massage involves deep stretching and pressure on muscles and joints, as well as twisting and turning movements. These techniques are designed to release energy blockages and improve energy flow in the body. This can help relax muscles and reduce tension, which can reduce stress. Thai massage can also improve joint flexibility and mobility, as well as help improve breathing and blood circulation for global feeling of wellness.


Cranial massage is a massage technique that aims to stimulate the acupuncture points of the skull. It can help reduce headaches, improve concentration and reduce stress. It can also help address stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.

This type of massage focuses on the muscles of the face, neck and skull, using gentle pressure and rotation techniques. Cranial massage can help reduce headaches, neck pain and tension in the shoulders and neck. It can relax tension and emotional blockages, this can help reduce stress. Cranial massage can also improve blood flow to the head and promote the release of endorphins, natural hormones that have an analgesic and euphoric effect, which can induce stress reduction.


Reflexology massage is a massage technique that aims to stimulate reflex zones. It can help work on joint discomfort, improve blood and lymph circulation and reduce anxiety and improve mental health.

Reflexology can lower stress levels by stimulating reflex zones in the feet, hands and ears. This practice involves applying pressure to specific areas of the body that correspond to different parts and organs of the body. According to the theory of reflexology, this stimulation can help relieve tension and emotional blockages, and improve blood circulation, which can help reduce stress. It is also said that reflexology can help improve sleep, and promote general well-being. This type of massage can be especially beneficial for people who have difficulty relaxing or who have anxiety disorders.

To learn more, here are some articles about studies on the subject:

• Alraek,T., Lee, M., Choi, T-Y., Cao, H, and Jianping, L., Complementary and Alternative

Medicine for Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Systematic Review National

Research Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, University of Tromsø,

Norway (2011)

• Bell, R., Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Survivors, Clinical Journal of

Oncology Nursing, Volume 14, Number 3 (2008) 10.1188/10.CJON.365-370

• Brosseau L, et al. Ottawa Panel evidence-based clinical practice guidelines on

therapeutic massage for neck pain. J Bodyw Mov Ther 16(3):300-25. (2012)

• Coelho H.F., et al. Massage therapy for the treatment of depression: a systematic

review. Int J Clin Pract. 2008; 62(2): 325-333.

• Chaibi A, Tuchin PJ & Russell MB, Manual therapies for migraine: A systematic review

Head and Neck Research Group & Institute of Clinical Medicine, Akershus University

Hospital, Norway; Department of Chiropractic, Macquarie University, Australia (2011)

• Cherkin D.C., Eisenberg D., Sherman K.J., Barlow W., Kaptchuk T.J., Street J., Deyo R.A.

Randomized trial comparing traditional Chinese medical acupuncture, therapeutic

massage, and self-care education for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med,

161(8):1081-8 (2001)

• Crane, J, Ogborn, D, et coll. Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After

Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage Sci. Transl. Med Vol. 4, Issue 119, p. 119ra13 (2012)

• Ekici G, Bakar Y, Akbayrak T, et coll. Comparison of manual lymph drainage therapy and

connective tissue massage in women with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled

trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 32(2):127–133 (2009)

• Field, T., Sunshine, W., Hernandez-Reif, M. Massage therapy effects on depression and

somatic symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

3(3): 43-51. (1997)

• Garner B, Phillips LJ, Schmidt HM, Markulev C, O'Connor J, Wood SJ, Berger GE, Burnett

P, McGorry PD. Pilot study evaluating the effect of massage therapy on stress, anxiety and

aggression in a young adult psychiatric inpatient unit. Australia and New Zealand

Journal of Psychiatry, 42 (5): 414-22 (2008)

• Hernandez-Rief M; Dieter, J; Field, T Migraine headache reduced by massage therapy

International Journal of Neuroscience 96:1–11. (1998)

• Hill, R, Baskwill, A. Positive Effects of Massage Therapy on a Patient with Narcolepsy,

International Journal Therapy, Massage and Bodywork 2013; 6 (2): 24-28.

• Kalichman, L., Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia Symptoms. Rheumatology

International Jul; 30(9):1151-7 (2010)

• Kong LJ, Zhan HS, Cheng YW, Yuan WA, Chen B, Fang M. Massage therapy for neck and

shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Yueyang Hospital of Integrated

Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese

Medicine, Shanghai (2004)

• Krohn M, Listing M, Tjahjono G, Reisshauer A, Peters E, Klapp BF, Rauchfuss M.

"Depression, mood, stress, and Th1/Th2 immune balance in primary breast cancer

patients undergoing classical massage therapy." Supportive Care in Cancer (2010)

• Kumar, S., Beaton, K., Hughes, T., The effectiveness of massage therapy for the

treatment of nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review of systematic reviews

International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, School of Health Sciences, University of

South Australia (2013)

• Lawler S; Cameron, L; A randomized, controlled trial of massage therapy as a treatment

for migraine. Ann. Behav Med 2006; 32:50–59 (2006)

• Lewis, M., Johnson, M. The clinical effectiveness of therapeutic massage for

musculoskeletal pain: a systematic review, Faculty of Health, Leeds Metropolitan

University (2006)

• Porter, N., Jason, L., Boulton, A., Bothne,N., Coleman, B. Alternative Medical

Interventions Used in the Treatment and Management of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis,

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, Journal of Alternative and Complementary

Medicine 16(3): 235-249 (2010)

• Immediate Effects of Traditional Thai Massage on Psychological Stress as Indicated by Salivary Alpha-Amylase Levels in Healthy Persons

Thanarat Sripongngam,1,2,A,B,C,D,E,F,G Wichai Eungpinichpong,2,A,D,E,F,G Dhavee Sirivongs,3,A Jaturat Kanpittaya,4,A Kamonwan Tangvoraphonkchai,5,A and Sutin Chanaboon6,C

• A comparison the effects of reflexology and relaxation on the psychological symptoms in women with multiple sclerosis

Mozhgan Soheili, Fatemeh Nazari,1 Vahid Shaygannejad,2 and Mahboobeh Valiani

• The Effect of Reflexology on the Autonomic Nervous System in Healthy Adults: A Feasibility Study.

Source: Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine . May/Jun2011, Vol. 17 Issue 3, p32-37. 6p.

Author(s): Hughes, C. M.; Krirsnakriengkrai, S.; Kumar, S.; McDonough, S. M.

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