Massage and Mental Health: How can one help the other?

Adding massage therapy to your mental health toolkit

Whether it’s through social awareness, knowing someone with a mental health issue or experiencing a tough time yourself, mental health is becoming an ever prevalent part of our consciousness.  With 45% of Australians aged between 16-85 having experienced a mental health issue in their life, it’s definitely no wonder why our society is becoming more aware. 

And this is certainly a positive thing. More research is being done, more treatment options are available and people have greater acceptance and understanding. In fact, more and more research is being done on the benefits that massage can have on mental health. Massage has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, anxiety and have positive effects on symptoms relating to depression. 

So how exactly does massage help?

Well it’s all about our receptors, nerves and hormones. 

During a moderate pressure massage, receptors within the skin are stimulated which magically send signals via our nerves to our brain. More often than not, the areas in the brain which receive these messages are responsible for emotion regulation and the secretion of hormones. For example, massage that stimulates such receptors in the skin has shown to decrease the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, conversely our bodies produce natural antidepressants or our happy hormones, serotonin and dopamine.

Interestingly, massage has also shown to increase vagal nerve activity, which can typically be low in depressed individuals. The vagus nerve is gaining a lot of attention recently because of how many structures of the body it innervates and its function in regulating heart rate. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, cortisol levels reduce, the heart rate slows and our bodies enter a more relaxed state. How amazing!

Brain activity studies have demonstrated increased activity in the right frontal lobe of chronically depressed persons. This area of the brain is associated with negative emotion and withdrawal however following a short massage this brain activity shifted to the left frontal lobe. MRI scans following massage have also confirmed increased blood flow to the areas of the brain involved in depression and stress regulation, thereby helping to regulate emotion. 

The list of positive effects massage can have on our brains and more importantly how we feel, could go on. In any case, it’s clear that massage can help mental health and is a great complementary therapy that is relatively non-invasive.

So if you are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression or perhaps know someone who is, maybe think about booking in for a massage and see how it can help you. 

Need professional help?

Here at Health Place, we are lucky to work with an amazing Psychologist Rachel Jones from Lift High Performance Psychology. She is a member of the Australian Psychological Society and Queensland Chair of the College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists.  She also has experience managing critical incidents in sport and has a special interest in mental toughness, coach development, athlete and performer welfare, mental health, injury rehabilitation, athlete career transitions, and helping athletes to reach the elite level in their sport.

Need more? Visit your therapist at Health Place

For any more information or questions, feel free  call us  at (07) 3852 2434 or email us at

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