Massage & Mental Health: Depression

If you are living with, and being treated for depression, you are not alone. According to Mental Health America, Major Depression is one of the most common illnesses, affecting 6.7% of American adults (more than 16 million) each year. That is quite a number of people working very hard at maintaining “normal” day to day life and responsibilities, while also managing the sometimes agonizing, draining, and painful (emotional AND physical) symptoms that come with the condition and that's only Major (clinical) Depression.  

There are several different types and forms of depression varying in signs, symptoms and factors. A proper diagnosis from a Psychologist, Primary Care Provider, or specialist is important so that the individual person is being treated most effectively. I encourage you to visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website for reference on what you need to know about depression, the types, signs and symptoms-for education purposes, or if you think you or a loved one may be depressed and need guidance of what to do next.

Medication, talk therapy, and a combination of the two, are the most common forms of treatment for depression. What if you added therapeutic massage to your treatment plan? A massage therapist can’t address the emotional symptoms of the illness, but we can address the lingering physical ones.

The mind - body connection is strong. The physical mirrors the emotional, what is being felt emotionally with depression can and often does present in chronic, painful, physiological ways, that vary from person to person. No two people are the same, symptoms affect each individual uniquely and differently from the next.

Therapeutic Massage can release the muscles of shoulders, neck, jaw, face and scalp, that could be tight from clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth if you haven’t been sleeping well. Fatigue and disruptive sleep patterns and insomnia are an extremely common side effect of depression. When A level or restorative sleep doesn’t occur, your body is in alert mode, constricting muscles. This leads to migraines, chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain (upper and lower), shallow breathing and digestive issues. Therapeutic Massage encourages the physical body to operate to its best ability and top performance. Supporting the functions of the body to run smoothly, boosting the performance of the immune and digestive system, lowering stress hormones (cortisol) and bumping up serotonin and dopamine levels, balancing brain chemistry indirectly, through therapeutic massage.

As someone who has battled depression in the past, I like to think of receiving a massage as a coping mechanism to better help deal and live with the physical pain. Later, therapeutic massage became a part of my preventative care process. Massage helped encourage balance, and body awareness. Becoming aware of where I held my stress, holding onto tension, how I was breathing, improving posture, increasing confidence and self esteem was all improved with regular massage.  

It was difficult (even as a LMT) to book an appointment with my colleagues. Everything was difficult. When I finally did, I was thankful and remembered that it is a Massage Therapist’s job to to make you feel better than when you first walked into the Massage room.  LMT’s are non judgmental, nurturing, educated, professional and safe. Incorporating therapeutic massage was the perfect addition to my personal treatment plan. Ask your doctor if it could be beneficial for you and your treatment plan.