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Using Massage to Relieve Depression


Most people have had the blues along the way, but some people suffer from mild to severe depression, which can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or feelings of hopelessness in the face of a stressful or traumatic situation—or both.

When you are depressed, your body responds in many ways, including through a decrease in vitality of your organs and bodily systems as well as your posture. Depressive posture is a structural collapse that can increase with the severity and duration of the depression. The head comes down and the shoulders come forward, and this causes a shortening in the abdominal muscles and a tightening of the diaphragmatic arch. This structural collapse not only inhibits the ability to breathe freely, it also signals the brain to feel even more sad and depressed—a vicious cycle for someone already suffering.

Massage helps to alleviate depression by halting the structural collapse and encouraging the body to become more upright and erect. This can have a tremendous psychological benefit and can greatly contribute to other therapies a depressed patient is also undergoing. Breast cancer patients who were treated to massage therapy during a study conducted by the University of Miami reported a reduction in anger and depression, along with an increase in energy. Another study at the University of South Florida concluded that massage has a positive effect on high blood pressure patients, lowering high numbers by 11 points.

In addition, regular massage increases serotonin and dopamine levels, two neurotransmitters associated with increased joy and pleasure.

The type of therapeutic massage is not nearly as important as having massage on a consistent basis. Swedish massage is, perhaps, the most commonly requested type of massage, but even a 10-minute reflexology appointment performed by a skilled reflexologist two or three times a week can work wonders.


For those with moderate to severe depression, massage can be a helpful part of a tailored overall therapy that includes counseling and medication. San Antonio Behavioral Healthcare Hospital offers excellent inpatient and outpatient programs for adults, adolescents, and military personnel who need help to overcome or manage psychological and emotional issues such as depression. Visit our Homepage today to view our programs, or call (210) 541-5300 for a free, confidential assessment.