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How Massage Can Help Treat & Eliminate Anxiety 

It may be the ultimate in relaxation, but massage therapy benefits extend well beyond stress relief. Research has shown massage to have positive effects on everything from sciatica pain and sleep apnoea to tinnitus and heart disease. So is it time to add anxiety to the list? 

Anxiety explained 

Anxiety is more than occasionally feeling anxious. Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that affects 6.8 million Americans, women, twice as often as men. It usually develops gradually but can manifest at any age, commonly between childhood and middle age. Risk factors, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, include: 

  • Being shy in childhood 
  • Low economic status 
  • Being divorced or widowed 
  • Exposure to stressful life events, such as the loss of a family member or trauma 
  • A family history of anxiety disorders or other mental health disorders 
  • Having elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the afternoon 

People with anxiety worry excessively and persistently about any number of things — money, health, family, work and more. It’s generally diagnosed when a person report being preoccupied with worry on more days than not. Other symptoms include: 

  • Feeling restless or “on edge.” 
  • Being easily fatigued 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Sleep problems, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness or sleep that fails to refresh 

Anxiety can range from mild to debilitating and may prevent those affected from enjoying social situations, pursuing work advancements, travelling, or trying new experiences. 

Massage therapy for anxiety 

Anxiety is often treated with cognitive behavioural therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. But alternative therapies are increasingly being considered for treating anxiety, and massage is proving effective. 

The Mayo Clinic reports a 60-minute massage can lower cortisol, the stress hormone, by up to 30 per cent after just one session. 

A study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety found participants who received regular massage therapy for 12 weeks had a 50 per cent reduction in anxiety symptoms. And the benefits weren’t short-lived either. Symptom reduction remained at 50 per cent at the 26-week mark even after the therapy had ended. 

In addition to its calming effects, massage therapy can help alleviate anxiety symptoms, including muscle tension and sleep disturbances. Experts recommend going in with an open mind and not talking or thinking about any sources of worry during the massage. 

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