Many patients seek out a registered massage therapist for the treatment of stress and anxiety. Anxiety can manifest itself in a range of ways, including persistent worry, physical tension, and exhaustion due to sleepless nights. People who suffer from chronic stress often feel overwhelmed, and have little time to sort through their emotions or look for solutions. In fact, due to our increasingly busy schedules, feeling “stressed out” is regarded as a common and unavoidable fact of life - leading many people to believe there is no cure, only degrees of coping. However, massage therapy has been shown to play a significant role in reducing chronic stress and anxiety, offering patients a substantial improvement in physical and mental wellbeing.
Anxiety takes many forms and can arise in individuals of any background. Social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and post-traumatic stress are all common types of anxiety disorders. Anxiety also comes in the form of GAD—general anxiety disorder. A carefully followed regimen of massage therapy can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with these conditions by facilitating the release of tensions held throughout the body. An RMT with massage therapy training uses specific techniques to help relieve the headache, fatigue and musculoskeletal pain that typically accompany anxiety, which in turn helps patients feel relaxed and at ease.
Chronic stress has both short and long-term harmful effects on the body. Under stressful circumstances, the body releases a surge of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol prompts a “fight or flight” response which raises blood sugar and takes energy away from the digestive and immune systems. Chronic stress keeps cortisol levels high, which can interfere with cognition, cause weight gain, and may eventually lead to depression. Clinical studies have shown that just a half hour session of massage therapy can lower cortisol levels, and reduce the debilitating physical effects of stress.
It is common for patients with depression to feel anxious, and for anxiety patients to feel depressed. Depression can have crippling effects on a patient’s day to day life, prohibiting them from doing things they love, and even things they must do like work or go to school. Clinically depressed patients will often experience musculoskeletal pain associated with a lack of activity. Lower levels of activity can result in restricted range of motion, tense muscles and fatigue. When a RMT with massage therapy education treats these joints and muscles, there is an increase in blood flow, improving circulation and helping the patient experience greater mobility. Musculoskeletal pain relief can encourage depressed patients to pursue more active lives, which in turn helps lighten the challenges of their illness.
What techniques or approaches do you use to treat chronically anxious patients?