Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Massage Therapy
Massage refers to the manipulation of bodily muscles, tendons, connective tissue, ligaments, and even organs to help promote health often primarily through relaxation.
It is documented that ancient civilizations have used massage for centuries and it is still used in modern day times the world over. Though there are hundreds of types of massage, some of the most common include Acupressure, Ayurvedic, deep tissue, Esalen, medical, reflexology, Shiatsu, stone, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Trigger Point and Visceral.
Effect of Massage Therapy on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Massage has been used for centuries to help relax the body and (subsequently) the mind. Because anxiety symptoms often exhibit a chicken-and-the-egg scenario where the body and the mind are both tense and aggravating one another, massage can help to relax both body and mind. (Massage is often done with essential oils - check out the article on generalized anxiety disorder and aromatherapy.)
Research Evidence on Massage Therapy
Several studies indicate that massage combined with aromatherapy may be helpful for relieving anxiety.36
One study evaluated this combination therapy for treating anxiety and/or depression in people undergoing treatment for cancer.40 The treatment did appear to provide some short-term benefits.
In a 2008 review of 27 studies, for example, researchers concluded that relaxation therapies (including Jacobson's progressive relaxation, autogenic training, applied relaxation, and meditation) were effective against anxiety. (Although, not all of the studies were randomized, controlled trials.)66
In a randomized trial involving 68 patients with generalized anxiety disorder, ten sessions of therapeutic massage, thermotherapy (application of heat), or relaxation were all found to be beneficial at reducing anxiety, though none was superior to the others.67
Side Effects and Warnings
Massage is generally safe. ^ However, it can sometimes exacerbate pain temporarily, even when properly performed. In addition, if massage is performed too forcefully on fragile people, bone fractures and other internal injuries are possible. However, licensed massage therapists have been trained in ways to avoid causing these problems. Machines designed to perform elements of massage may be less safe. ^
- Cooke B, Ernst E. Aromatherapy: a systematic review. Br J Gen Pract. 2000;50:493-496.
- Wilkinson SM, Love SB, Westcombe AM, et al. Effectiveness of aromatherapy massage in the management of anxiety and depression in patients with cancer: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25:532-539.
- Manzoni GM, Pagnini F, Castelnuovo G, et al. Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2008 Jun 2.
- Sherman KJ, Ludman EJ, Cook AJ, et al. Effectiveness of therapeutic massage for generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Depress Anxiety. 2010;27(5):441.