Massage Therapy & Depression: A Literature Review

This literature review, performed by Lucy Last, CCMH Class of 2021, set out to explore the efficacy of massage therapy as complementary management to decrease symptoms of depression. 

Various search methods and techniques landed on five journal articles to review. Each study was unique; however, every study reviewed demonstrated that massage therapy is an effective treatment option for managing the signs and symptoms of depression

Significantly, one study declared an impressive average of 31% decrease of cortisol in patients experiencing depression. The same study claimed a 28% increase of serotonin and 31% increase in dopamine levels immediately following massage therapy treatment. 

A summary of each of the articles referenced, along with the researcher’s thoughts:

  1. T. Field, M Hernandez-Reif, M. Diego, et al. (November 2004). Cortisol Decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine Increase Following Massage Therapy; explains that “cortisol has been labeled a culprit variable for killing immune cells”, however, “its production reliably decreases following relaxing therapies such as massage therapy.”
  2. L. F. S. Kurebayashi, R. N. T. Turrini, T. P Borges de Souza, et al. (September 2016). Massage and Reiki Used to Reduce Stress and Anxiety: Randomized Clinical Trial; sets out to understand whether massage and reiki can be used to reduce stress and anxiety and concludes that massage and massage combined with reiki are effective treatment options for decreasing levels of stress and anxiety. 
  3. G. Reychler, G. Caty, A. Arcq, et al. (May 2017). Effects of Massage Therapy on Anxiety, Depression, Hyperventilation and Quality of Life in HIV Infected Patients: A Randomized Control Trial, finds massage therapy was successful in decreasing anxiety levels and hyperventilation in HIV-infected people. 
  4. D. I. Sanchez-Vidana, S. P-C. Ngai, W. He, et al. (January 2017.) The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review; demonstrates that aromatherapy massage did prove to be the most effective modality assessed.
  5. T. Field, M. Diego, M. Hernandez-Reif, et al. (August 2011). Yoga and Massage Therapy Reduce Prenatal Depression and Prematurity; found yoga and massage groups saw a decrease in anxiety, depression, and back and leg pain.
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