Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: November 2013


How massage fights depression

Although depression is fairly common, affecting one in five Americans, it is not to be taken lightly. There are many different types of depression, and it is usually coupled with anxiety disorders. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. The following are some of the symptoms associated with depression according to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities once pleasurable, including sex
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Psychotherapy combined with medication has been the traditional treatment for depression, and has proven effective for many sufferers. For others, however, the benefits these treatments provide can be limited.

In recent years, there has been an influx of randomized controlled trials exploring the effects of massage therapy on depression and anxiety disorders. The results have been wonderfully encouraging, showing that massage therapy significantly reduces depression and anxiety in both adults and children.

Further research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms by which massage therapy reduces anxiety and depression. Several theories exist. One theory involves the autonomic nervous system, the part of our nervous system that tells us when to be anxious (fight or flight) and when to chill out (rest and digest). Massage therapy reduces activity in the fight or flight branch and stimulates our rest and digest signals, promoting deep relaxation.

Studies have shown that massage also increases dopamine and serotonin levels, hormones that boost mood and promote relaxation. So a second theory says this is the mechanism by which massage reduces depression and anxiety.

Anxiety produces tension throughout the body. The fact that massage reduces tension and relaxes muscles gives us a third theory. A fourth theory is based on the finding that massage therapy and psychotherapy provide similar effects in reducing anxiety and depression. The parallels between these two therapies are also seen in the way treatment is conducted, with regular ongoing private sessions, similar in session length, employed in a relaxed, therapeutic environment.

I personally believe the truth lies in a combination of all of these theories. I'm excited to see what future research will uncover.

For those whose depression and anxiety seem to persist even with psychotherapy and medication, this research provides hope that there are other options that may prove beneficial. In this case, massage therapy is certainly an avenue to explore!

Source: Massage Magazine Nov 2012

Is your commute to and from work a pain in the neck?

It is if you're carrying heavy bags on your shoulders. The good news is you don't have to let your shoulder bags cause you chronic neck and back pain! Rolling bags will save your back. As fashionable as your Louis Vuitton? Maybe not. But being in pain is worse. If rolling bags don't appeal to you, or you have to deal with lots of subway stairs, try a back pack with wide straps to distribute the weight evenly across your upper back and keep your shoulders in alignment. Not as good as a back pack, but better than a shoulder bag, is a messenger bag you can wear diagonally across your body to help take some of the weight off your shoulder. Also, take a look at the contents of your bag. Do you really need all that stuff? See if you can lighten the load by getting rid of non-essentials. Lose the heavy shoulder bag. Your body will thank you!

What's new with me ...

Turns out, having a baby gives parents a great excuse to go all out on Halloween. Jesse actually made our costumes! If you're a "Game of Thrones" fan, I bet you'll agree that they came out pretty amazing!

Click here for more fun photos!




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Swedish InstituteCertified Myoskeletal TherapistNational Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork


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