The stigma and misconceptions that once surrounded depression have begun to fall away in recent years. Advocates have sought to increase awareness, encouraging people to speak more openly about the issue. This public dialogue has allowed people suffering from depression to access more information about the therapeutic options available to help manage their condition, one of which is massage therapy.
While it is not the role of massage therapists to treat the psychological causes and symptoms of depression, the proven improvements in mood and reduced stress that massage therapy patients enjoy can certainly be beneficial. Depression often manifests physically through ailments that can be treated through a variety of massage therapy techniques.
For students in massage therapy programs, understanding some basic facts about depression, its symptoms and the benefits of massage modalities, is important to offering patients the best treatment.
Depression is a sustained state of low mood and energy that comes in many forms. graduates may find themselves treating patients with short-term depression - often brought on by a dramatic event in their lives - or patients experiencing long-term, chronic depressive states. While there are severe cases, which result in a patient being hospitalized or unable to function, depression can also be quite mild, and have little visible effect on a patient’s day-to-day life.
Regardless of the specifics, the condition can take a very heavy toll. In some cases, depression has been found to result in shortening of the abdominal muscles and tightening of the diaphragm, severely restricting breathing. In addition, sleep disorders, inflammation, as well as joint, muscle, and back pain can all come about as a result of the illness.
Since depression can often accompany other forms of illness and injury, a wealth of evidence from various studies supports the beneficial effects of massage therapy. Massage has been shown to actively reduce cortisol levels in patients, helping to alleviate their anxiety. In some cases, massage can also increase serotonin and dopamine levels in a patient, improving their overall mood.
RMTs can also perform a number of therapeutic techniques to alleviate the physical symptoms of depression that some patients experience. Massage can increase the blood flow in tightened muscles, and relieve joint pain. A massage therapist can also help restore range of motion by stretching shortened ligaments, and correct respiratory issues. Massage makes it possible to reduce the impact that lack of exercise has on the body, which can be an issue when a depressive patient’s condition has led to a decrease in their physical activity.
Due to the relaxing, non-invasive nature of massage, many different modalities are useful in treating patients with depression. Massage therapy program students may well find themselves integrating a number of techniques into their treatment programs, with each offering their own unique benefits to the patient.
Swedish massage can calm the body’s adrenal system and reduces muscle tension to help patients relax, as can other types of light massage. Patients who are experiencing extreme physical discomfort brought on by their depression can sometimes benefit from restorative techniques such as visceral manipulation and lymphatic drainage, while cranial sacral therapy has been shown to aid restful sleep and help treat migraines.
Interested in massage therapy certification? Visit OVCMT to find out more about our programs.