When Anxiety Doesn't Go Away: How Massage Can Help
If you suffer from anxiety, you may have focused your efforts towards counseling and other avenues that address mental/emotional well-being. While these are good steps in the right direction, some people forget that anxiety can manifest in very physical ways. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, many chronic pain disorders (e.g. fibromyalgia) are linked with anxiety. Take a look at how anxiety affects bodily functions and how massage can help.
Anxiety's Effect On the Body
Muscle tension is a major problem for those that suffer from anxiety. The tension you feel comes from muscles contracting due to stress and due to a flood of hormones (e.g. adrenaline, cortisol) related to your "fight-or-flight" response. These hormones are supposed to be helpful--they can improve blood flow and provide you with more energy. However, if you are always feeling stressed, these hormones aren't going to do you any good. For instance, high levels of cortisol are related to issues like suppressed immunity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Along with muscle tension and unbalanced hormone responses, people with anxiety can hyperventilate, feel chest pain, and feel pins-and-needle sensations in their extremities. These symptoms are similar to symptoms of a heart attack, which of course, can make a person more anxious.
Other physical symptoms can include headaches, light sensitivity, fatigue, stomach pain, and so on. In short, your anxiety can definitely cause physical symptoms that can disrupt your day-to-day living.
The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Anxious Patients
According to one study found at NCBI, massage therapy helped people lower their cortisol levels and raise their serotonin and dopamine levels. Since excess cortisol is linked to stress, a massage may not be just a luxury, but an actual solution to your health! Serotonin and dopamine are chemicals that can help regulate your mood and appetite, so the fact that they increase during massage is also fantastic.
The Huffington Post also provided a study that showed how massage could reduce stress levels. Their study focused specifically on Swedish massages, but like the NCBI study, there was a decrease in cortisol levels. Conversely, there was an increase in oxytocin. Oxytocin is the "love" chemical that has been studied for its influence in social bonding behaviors. Since oxytocin can improve your mood, ideally you'll be better equipped to handle situations which typically make you anxious.
Along with decreasing stress-inducing hormones, massage is also a great solution if your muscles and joints are stiff. As previously mentioned, anxiety can cause muscles to tighten; however, a massage therapist can work these knots out and restore your range of motion. Lastly, if you are looking for ways to manage your anxiety-caused pain without pills, this is a great therapy to try. For more information, contact companies like Bamboo Leaf.