Depression, Can Massage Help?

By Latasha Sampson and Ross Ashcraft

Massage not only feels good, but it also helps to reduce depression, stress, and anxiety. During a massage session your body releases different hormones that have a therapeutic effect on the body. All of us know someone who has been blue, down on their luck, or just plain depressed. Depression takes on many symptoms, which include:

*Some people have a feeling of overwhelming sadness

* Change in appetite, which causes weight loss or weight gain

* Disturbance in sleep (Insomnia)

* A decrease in self- esteem

* Harm to self or thought about harming self

* A feeling of fatigue that can be physical, mental or both

* Thoughts of suicide or death

Type of Depression:

Major Depression:  Involves overwhelming feelings of sadness and loss of interest in normal activites.  These feelings will have lasted for more than two weeks.

Dysthymia:  A mild long lasting version of depression that will come and go, and last as long as five years.

Adjustment Disorders:  Linked to a major life change such as death, loss of job, or failure of relationships.  It involves anxiety, depressed mood, and disturbing emotions that linger long past a normal grieving period.

Bipolar Disorders:  Characterized by wide swings of emotions.  Those with the condition will have periods of massive energy followed by low moods and dark emotions.  Those that think they are suffering with the conditions need to be under a doctor’s care.  This condition tends to progress and make the swings in emotion shorter and more erratic, and it can eventually lead to suicidal tendencies.

Massage Can Help

Massage has been shown to directly affect the hormones and neurotransmitters that have been linked to all forms of depression.  Massage increases serotonin and dopamine which are the natural feel good chemicals that our bodies produce.  It decreases the amount of cortisol and adrenaline which are the stress hormones of our bodies.

The goal of massage for depressed clients is to:

* Reduce Tension & Stress

* Relaxation

* Help Promote Proper Breathing

* Calm The Mind

Types of Massage Therapies that help in coping with Depression

1.  Cranialsacral Therapy

2.  Swedish massage

3.  TMJ ( Temporomandibular Joint) release. TMJ release can help if you have a client that clenches there jaw or has headaches from the tension in this area.

Self Help Technique:

Stretching can help with depression. Doing stretches or yoga can help loosen the body and allow you the time to meditate, focus on breathing and clearing your mind.

Neck and Shoulders Stretches:  Hold each stretch for 15-20 seconds

1. Neck Flexion- chin to chest

2. Neck Extension- Tilt head back

3. Neck lateral Rotation- Turn neck to the right and hold/ Turn neck to the left and hold

4. Neck lateral flexion- lower right ear toward right should & hold/ Lower left ear to left shoulder & hold

5. The Shoulder Shrug – Bring both shoulders up to ears and hold

Remember:  Take the Time to JUST BREATHE: Inhale from the abdomen hold and breath out.  Try these stretches and let us know if your mood improves.

If you or a family member needs help with depression contact the number below and they can help you find help in your area.



Massage therapy Principles and practice by Susan G Salvo

NCCT website:  “Depression” September 2012

27 thoughts on “Depression, Can Massage Help?”

  1. Thanks for this blog, Ross-it seems really important to me that we be aware of clients’ emotional states. Through my personal experiences with emotional disorders, i can attest to the effectiveness of massage in helping people recover, when administered by a competent, compassionate professional.

  2. This all makes so much sense. I know that touch is essential in feeling healthy and whole, and the increase in seratonin that occurs during massage would surely make a difference in helping someone’s mood improve. Combined with stretching and attention to breathing would have to help. Good thoughts.

  3. I am so glad that I do not go through depression anymore. Because depression can cause stress and tensions and knots on in your muscles.I will try this sometimes, because it does look interesting.

  4. Wow, this blog subject couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’ve been down on my luck for the past two weeks, and I found that massage really did help me. I’ll definitely keep these techniques handy. Thank you so much.

  5. I highly recommend massages over medication in most cases out there. I believe that medications have their place but massage has so many excellent benefits without side effects.

  6. Thank you for the suggestion on the TMJ massage. That is something that is probably over looked a lot in this scenario

  7. I definitely have some neck problems so these would be nice to try out, but I have to say the best part of this blog was the explanations behind different depressions. I had no idea there were so many.

  8. Massaging a depressed person also comes with risks. This particular demographic is very susceptible to countertransference and may have many needs that go above and beyond an LMT’s range of services.

  9. It never ceases to amaze me the ways in which massage benefits all people from every walk of life, and just about any disorder, disease or condition. It’s pretty amazing the variety of people we can make a difference to.

  10. I can personally can attest to the power that both yoga and massage have on depression. I suffer from clinical depression due to many bad situations I experienced as a child. Since I started practicing yoga and doing the self massages (which I had already been doing prior to this blog), I have noticed that my stress level has greatly reduced.

  11. Thanks for this information. The neck stretches I already do. And feel great. Massage feel good no matter what mood you are in!

  12. I really like this blog. It is very informative, about items that really happen in this world that we live in. I like the fact that massage can actually help I didnt know that and that is very helpful.

  13. I agree that the state of a client will make a difference. Dealing with depression is something that is physical as well as mental and I love to learn ways to help both. Thanks for the blog and the techniques 🙂

  14. Depression affects a large percentage of the population. I can see how relaxation techniques and massage would be beneficial to a person suffering from Depression. My mother is Bipolar and I will suggest massage to her. The stretches listed above do in fact help reduce stress, but meditation always seems to center me and reduce stress.

  15. massage is great, I have actually started to try and chime into my clients moods, and statements when i first meet them. I feel that by trying to understand how they are feeling that day will help me figure out the best way to help them. Now when it comes to me receiving a massage, if the environment isn’t “ideal” setting isn’t right & if my therapist seems disconnected from me. Its extremely hard to for me personally to relax and enjoy my self I experience a feeling of overwhelming sadness

    * Change in appetite, which causes weight loss or weight gain

    * Disturbance in sleep (Insomnia)

    * A decrease in self- esteem

    * Harm to self or thought about harming self

    * A feeling of fatigue that can be physical, mental or both

    * Thoughts of suicide or death

    SO Shhhhhh

  16. Depression can be such a vicious cycle. I think getting massages would definitely help with depression it is just getting that person to the massage might be the hard part. I also think it is important to know how the client is feeling and see if they are willing to open up to you so maybe their massage can be even more positively effective.

  17. I know I’m a little late commenting on this one but I’m really glad you wrote on this subject. I’ve stumbled with my mental disorder for the longest time, getting misdiagnosed, meds changed constantly, therapists changed as well, etc, and after years of fighting it I’m glad that the outside world is actually seeing emotional disorders as a true problem that actually needs attention. I am bipolar type 2 and will most likely never be able to be completely off meds, but I have found that I was able to reduce them by partaking in other forms of therapy such as massage. It’s also good that people with other emotional/mental disorders would be able to transition off medication all together and use massage to regulate their moods instead. Thanks Ross

  18. Thank you for the amazing information about depression blog .all the steps are important when we suffer from depression. I get motivated from the post and alert from mistakes.thanks for sharing this. In normal life people daily suffers from this problem.
    Due to competitive lifestyle, many peoples in the world were suffering from this Depression.Near about !0{dd4fd4792e0eb33cfcd896730531ad5ee27f408bd2ce28da7f8125f8188131a8} of the population suffered from this problem.In Ayurveda, it is called as Vishaad or Manoavasad.Depression not only affects the mind but also it affects the body of the person.v