Home > Health Articles > Can Massage Help My Depression?

by Seri,
Former LMT for Peaceful Spirit Massage & Wellness Centers

In today’s busy society, many of us have forgotten how to take care of ourselves. A majority of people have sedentary jobs and with a struggling economy spend available time working and as a result have sedentary lives. Perhaps the decrease in physical activity and self care has contributed to the increase incidents of depression in America. With so many people battling their mental health, antidepressants seem to be prescribed in high doses to everyone. Sometimes antidepressants are needed, but often times we can prevent the need, or lower the dose, by the things we do. Keeping our bodies physically healthy helps to improve our mental health. Exercise, a healthy diet, massage, and acupuncture are all things we can do to keep ourselves flourishing.

Both massage and exercise increase the levels of neurotransmitters released in the body. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that can act as an analgesic, meaning they decreases pain. They bind to the same neuron receptors as pain medications yet unlike pain medications they do not have negative side effects. Additionally, endorphins are a mild sedative and can help you to relax. Moreover, Serotonin is yet another neurotransmitter released; it is a mood-altering hormone that is also involved in your sleep and wake patterns.

We have nerves bundled throughout our skin and muscles. Because of this, activities affecting these areas -such as massage- will directly affect our central nervous system. Massage also helps increase blood and lymph circulation, which brings more oxygen into the body and flushes out toxins. Additionally it decreases the production of cortisol and norepinephrine, which can cause stress and anxiety.

A study published in 1999 in Archives of Internal Medicine compared a group of people who performed an exercise program with a group that took an SSRI for depression. In both groups 60%-70% no longer had major depression at the end of the study. This showed that exercise can be used in place of medications to treat depression. The biggest challenge is that many people are not motivated to exercise when they are depressed and some of those individuals lose motivation or lack time for a consistent exercise routine. The study also showed that people who continued to exercise, whether they were on antidepressants or not, were less likely to have relapses of depression than those who did not exercise.

Taking your health into your own hands is often challenging, but it will yield long-term dividends. A healthy body and mind creates a better quality of life. It is difficult for people to take time away from their lives just for themselves. Try to remember that possessing a sound mind makes it easier to juggle everything else in life. It not only makes us more focused at work but also we are able to do a better job of taking care of the other people in our lives.


Craig Miller, Michael. Understanding Depression, Harvard Mental Health Letter. Harvard Health Publications, 2011, Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu /newsweek/Exerciseand-Depression-report-excerpt.htm

Miller, Colleen. Massage and Depression. Smithson Clinic, 2008, Retrieved from http://www.smithsonclinic.com/SmithsonClinic/massage-and-depression.htm