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Q&A: Can Massage Help Manage Stress and Depression?

Q&A: Can Massage Help Manage Stress and Depression?


Anyone who’s ever suffered a bout of depression—whether short or long-term—knows that, at the time, it can feel as though there is little that can help. Yet more and more, massage is earning a name for itself as more than just a feel-good service. Today, it’s a viable means of relief.

First, we turn to science.

One comprehensive analysis of 37 studies supports the basic conclusion that massage therapy is an effective alternative treatment for the symptoms of depression.

More specifically, a single session can reduce “state” anxiety, or stress that arises in light of a specific situation, lowering a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. Multiple sessions, on the other hand, are better for “trait” anxiety—the type that lingers longer. (Atlanta-based massage therapist Amor Largo supports this with her answer to the original question: “Yes, massage could help. [You] probably need more than one massage, however.)

Now, we turn to our equally reliable network of massage and bodywork experts, many who have worked with clients to ease tension, stress and even depression.

Rogelio Medina, Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

“Most types of depression can be relieved by massage,” says Rogelio, a licensed massage therapist and Texas Institute graduate. Massage works in several ways to alleviate symptoms, he explains, reducing stress by activating a physical response that induces relaxation. Massage increases serotonin and dopamine, hormones that decrease stress, while also reducing cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone that puts you on edge.

Rogelio recommends Swedish massage, one of the most popular forms of bodywork for relaxation. He also recognizes, however, that everyone is different, and that some might find deep tissue massage relaxing as well.

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Rosemary Rickard, Tampa, FL

Rosemary, a Tampa-based massage therapist with nearly 25 years of industry experience, knows that massage therapy can be extremely beneficial for individuals dealing with depression—especially victims of emotional or physical abuse.

Rosemary has actually worked with abuse survivors in a counseling center, the patients who seek healing and relaxation by way of bodywork. “Through massage,” she says, “abuse survivors learn what healthy touch is all about and that they are worthy of love, kindness and self-esteem.”

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