Posted by: Integra Massage | January 20, 2011

Massage helps Depression

A story  circulating in the press relates to a psychologist whose research suggests that this week is the most depressing week of the year (as if we didn’t already know).  While it may be understandable that some people feel down at this time of year, for other depression is a year round, and highly debilitating experience.

But, if your mood is low had you thought of massage as a remedy?  Probably not, but I’ve often seen clients go through significant emotional changes during a course of massage treatment.

From a conventional perspective, depression is usually seen as an imbalance in neuro-chemistry treated with drugs, or a cognitive dysfunction which will be treated with pyschotherapy.  Some people take comfort in belief that “its not them” but a chemical imbalance.  Others may find this disempowering and benefit from challenging their negative thought patterns.  I suspect these are simply two ways of looking at the same thing based on a mind body split.

Oriental medicine on the other hand views depression as a “chi disease”.  In other words it occurs when your life energy is depleted, stuck or flowing erratically in your body.  Herbs, acupuncture, massage and exericse may be used to restore the flow of energy and lift the mood.

Other holistic approaches also emphasise the unity of body and mind. All our thoughts and feelings produce reactions in our body and we tend to hold on to uncomfortable feelings, including depression, as bodily tension.  In effect we  confine ourselves in a strait jacket of tension which binds the free flow of our energy, restricts our breathing, cuts us off from physical pleasure and literally squeezes the life out of us.  Psychotherapists call this body armouring.

Skilled massage is a wonderful way to release body armour and restore the flow of energy so the receiver can regain joy in life.  An experienced therapist can use their hands to sense the held in, contracted tissues and coax them back into balance.  This kind of bodywork works well alongside counselling, herbs or even drug treatment.  The therapists hands can reach layers of feeling that lie beyond  the scope of “talking therapies” and so provide deeper, more rounded healing.

Perhaps equally important, massage is safe human contact that can melt through the feelings of isolation that accompany depression. Simple non judgemental, non demanding touch is a great gift of healing.

Another great benefit of massage is that it focuses the receiver’s attention away from their negative thoughts and into the neutral ground of the physical senses.  Meditation can help with depression in a similar (I’ll come back to this in a future article).  Being grounded in the immediacy of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, is so often the key to emotional balance.

I’ve seen many clients benefit in this way: Like Jo who came to me with a neck problem but also a history of clinical depression.  I worked with Jo over many sessions to open out the hardened tissues in her rib cage and abdomen that were pulling her shoulders and chest down. As we worked her depression gradually lifted.  I also gave her herbs to raise her energy. Jo was seeing a counsellor  and felt that the two approaches worked synergystically. Her counselling offered insight and practical strategies while the massage offered healing and release from the negative feelings.

Integra Massage offers a wide range of therapies many of which are helpful in overcoming depression. Our relaxation massage was developed specifically as a hands on body focused approach to emotional issues.


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