The Psychological Benefits of Massage
Mental health has been in the news more than usual in 2019; a positive sign that we are all considering the importance of psychological well-being alongside that of physical well-being.
We know that the link between physical and mental well-being is a close one. There’s been a lot of research on the relationship between stress, depression and anxiety and chronic pain. People will often seek help for their physical pain without being aware of their underlying feelings that may be contributing to their pain. Conversely, it’s possible that someone suffering from chronic pain may find their mental well-being compromised.
The pain might be long term and inexplicable and it’s only by looking at the problem holistically that the physical pain can be addressed. Getting to the root of chronic pain is complex.
It’s common knowledge that movement, exercise and fresh air are beneficial both mentally and physically, but if you are suffering from chronic pain, it can be hard to take that first step.
I am not for a moment suggesting that massage therapy can alleviate depression or cure chronic pain, but it can be a part of a holistic programme of rehabilitation. Remember, the benefits of massage are both physiological and psychological. The physical benefits are well known; stimulation of the circulatory and lymphatic systems, reduction in muscular tension…. but you may be less aware of how massage stimulates the release of chemicals that directly effect mood.
You will have heard of Serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. Well, did you know that it’s released during massage? Serotonin induces feelings of well-being and happiness, reduces anxiety and helps us sleep better. It even helps us digest food more efficiently. And guess what, massage also stimulates the release of Endorphins, chemicals that act as analgesics, meaning they diminish the perception of pain by inhibiting the communication of the pain receptors. They work similarly to opioids, but without the negative side effects.
There’s no denying the placebo effect may also play a part in the positive outcomes of massage therapy; an hour’s massage treatment is an hour of uninterrupted personal time – and that’s a rare treat for most of us.
What’s to lose?