Mental Health and Massage

We all have ‘mental health’ just as we all have ‘physical health’, but for some reason, ‘mental health’ is still associated with social stigma and prejudice. Today marks the end of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 – a national campaign coordinated by the Mental Health Foundation to help shed the stigma associated with mental health and encourage more people to open up about their own mental health struggles. After all, ‘it’s good to talk’ and nobody should suffer in silence.


A recent survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation aimed to understand the prevalence of self-reported mental health problems, levels of positive and negative mental health in the population, and the actions people take to deal with the stressors in their lives. They found that nearly two thirds of people report that they have experienced a mental health problem. And more than four in 10 people say they have experienced depression, and over a quarter of people say they have experienced panic attacks. In fact only 13 percent of the study population reported living with high levels of good mental health. The survey demonstrates that levels of good mental health are disturbingly low and that our collective mental health is only deteriorating.

This is quite clearly a huge epidemic that needs to be addressed, and soon. In addition to the wide variety of talking therapies, CBT, and psychotherapy etc that is available, there’s a growing body of evidence that shows physical therapies such as massage can also be beneficial in helping to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, a consumer survey undertaken by the Americal Massage Therapy Association found that 88% of individuals viewed massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness and 32% of consumers stated that their primary reason for receiving massage was due to stress.

Research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2013) indicates that massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression for individuals with HIV. In fact, results showed that massage significantly reduced symptoms of depression at week four of the study and continued through weeks six and eight, suggesting that regular therapeutic massage sessions could be a useful tool in the treatment of depression for patients with HIV.

Research published in Military Medicine (2012) reports that military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage therapy. The results also suggest declining levels of tension and irritability following massage.

chair massage

Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (2012) shows that chair massage for nurses during work hours can actually help to reduce stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain.

Overall therefore, this growing body of research suggests that regular massage therapy would be a hugely beneficial addition to an integrated treatment plan for mental health conditions. And as a holistic massage therapist myself, I’ve personally seen the benefits of massage therapy with my own clients, whether they’re suffering from anxiety, depression, stress, or bereavement.

Woman having a massage

So if you feel you may need help with your own mental health, it may just be worth seeking out your local massage therapist in addition to your GP and other medical professionals, to enable a fully integrated and holistic approach to treatment. Visit our website to find out more about Pura Vida and the wide variety of massage therapies we offer.


1. Polane RE, Gertsik L, Favreau JT, et al. Open-label, randomized, parallel-group controlled clinical trial of massage for treatment of depression in HIV-infected subjects. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.2013 Apr;19(4):334-40. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0058.
2. Collinge W, Kahn J, Soltysik R. Promoting reintegration of National Guard veterans and their partners using a self-directed program of integrative therapies: a pilot study. Military Medicine. 2012 Dec;177(12):1477-85.
3. Engen DJ, Wahner-Roedler DL, Vincent A, et al. Feasibility and effect of chair massage offered to nurses during work hours on stress-related symptoms: a pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2012 Nov;18(4):212-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.06.002.

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