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Uplifting Power of Touch

By Pam O’Connor

Most of us lead such busy lives but how often do we stop to take time to look after ourselves?

I have been thinking about this recently while providing corporate massages in workplaces during events such as R U OK Day in September and National Mental Health Week in October. It’s fantastic to see bosses embrace these initiatives to not only shine a positive light on such important issues but also to lift the morale of their staff.

For R U OK Day the staff were encouraged to wear sunny yellow, and treated to a buffet lunch and a pampering massage. You could see the happiness in their faces! For World Mental Health Day I provided massages at a school. The teachers could take a little time out from their busy schedules to escape to a sanctuary where they could take off their shoes and sit quietly while enjoying a massage. The massages proved to be quite popular. I worked almost non-stop for the day as the teachers sat listening to relaxing music while queuing for their massages! Funnily enough I found it quite soothing myself – even though my busy hands were working hard!

I remember one teacher who loved to run – running was her “time out”. She would run the equivalent of a marathon every week. However, if she was too busy to spread out the run evenly during the week then she would squeeze it all in the weekend – and pay the price with sore muscles on Monday. She had started to feel some back pain but did not have to time for remedial massages or to get the problem examined. “I’m juggling a full-time job and running around after kids, so my needs come last,” she said. But what if the back pain was something more serious that would stop her from being able to run – the very thing she loved to do?

In a recent Massage & Myotherapy Journal (Summer 2016) I came across a research review article by Budiman Menassy on the uplifting power of massage on mental health:

What is GAD

“A new study finds that massage can help people with anxiety and other mental health disorders, like depression. This is due to its ability to reduce cortisol and anxiety symptoms. Researchers from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta,  conducted a randomised study on patients who had generalised anxiety disorder. People with GAD experience constant anxiety, with fearful and worrisome thoughts clouding their mind at all hours of the day – often for weeks or months on end. This constant anxiety often leads to fatigue, or to the development of long-term stomach pain or muscle tension.

“GAD is typically treated with antidepressants, and the researchers investigated the effect of touch. In the study, the participants were divided into two groups. One was given Swedish massage therapy twice a week, and the other was given light touch therapy twice a week, all over the course of six weeks. Each therapy session was 45 minutes long, and were carried out in the same room conditions. Before and after the session, the participants self-reported on how they felt.

“The results showed that Swedish massage therapy is the most effective in reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms. Light touch therapy didn’t show as much of an effect on the participants’ anxiety levels.

“This finding supported previous works that showed massage therapy works so well in helping to manage stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. A 2010 study found that massages could boost the immune system, and other studies found that massages improve sleep quality. We know that both sleep and immune function play a role in mental health. However the importance of touch on human emotional, physical and mental well-being is the most important feature. Research has shown that frequent touches can help foster bonds between people, improve immune system function, decrease heart rate and blood pressure, and overall improve emotional wellbeing. In addition to the physical benefits (relaxing muscle tension), massage can release endorphins that can improve sleep.”


Massage & Myotherapy Journal. Volume 14, Issue 4 – Summer 2016.

Rapaport M, Schettler P, Larson E, Edwards S, Dunlop B, Rakofsky J, Kinkead B. Acute Swedish massage monotherapy successfully remediates symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder: A proof-of-concept, randomised controlled study. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2016.

By | 2017-10-24T01:38:38+00:00 October 20th, 2017|Health, Wellness|0 Comments