Massage as a remedy for depression

Depression is a common health problem in our society. For example, it recently appeared in the news that a study by the National Student Union (March 2013) showed that half of students in the Netherlands have psychological complaints. But this problem also occurs within other population groups. A new study comparing massage with psychotherapy shows that massage can be a good remedy.

Massage or psychotherapy?

The research I want to cite here was conducted by scientist Christopher A. Moyer of the University of Wisconsin-Stout and scientists James Rounds and James W. Hannum of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. They discovered that massage as a therapy for depression had many similarities with psychotherapy. The results of these two forms of therapy also showed similarities. Therefore, the question arose whether the positive effects of massage were possibly due to the conversations that took place during the massage between the therapist and the person being treated or whether they were possibly related to the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and person being treated. Both things are very important in psychotherapy.

Design of the study

For this study, thirty subjects with depressive complaints or anxiety disorders received five massage treatments over a period of five weeks. Each subject was treated again and again by the same massage therapist. The group of test subjects was divided into two groups. One group was not allowed to speak during the massages, while the other group was. Audio recordings were made during all massage treatments. Furthermore, the subjects were questioned about their experiences and the psychological symptoms were recorded with a standardized measuring instrument at two times before the treatment, immediately after the treatment and twice a month after the end of all sessions. All data was entered into a so-called multilevel growth curve and then analyzed.

Result of the research

All subjects reported feeling better. However, it was mainly the subjects who experienced the relationship with their therapist as very positive and where there was little talking during the massage sessions who indicated that they benefited greatly from the treatment. After three massage treatments, their complaints had already decreased significantly and this result also continued after all massage treatments. The research therefore shows that massage certainly has a positive effect on reducing depressive complaints and anxiety. This does not require a lot of talking, as with psychotherapy. The researchers call massage an effective non-talking cure for depression.

More and more scientific research into massage

Until recently, massage was often pushed into the corner by the mainstream medical world as an unreliable alternative medicine. There was little scientific evidence that massage could solve health problems. But it seems that the mainstream medical world is increasingly interested in this subject. We increasingly see that scientific research into the effects of massage is being conducted with great success and that is a hopeful development.

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