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"Massage has beneficial physiological effects
on all major systems in the body, some of
which have been shown to be measurable
in clinical studies...."
(Adam Jackson, Massage Therapy)


Massage is one of the oldest healing techniques used to help us overcome psychological and physical health problems. It has probably been used since the dawn of human evolution and has been found to have been used in countries all over the world and in the early part of this century was still used in orthodox medical hospitals and clinics, but fell out of favour when high tech. medicine began to dominate our health care system.


Research indicates that massage can be of value in helping reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Massage causes the body to release many therapeutic mood and health enhancing chemicals, it increases dopamine and serotonin and reduces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It increases the relaxation alpha brain waves and also increases pain relieving levels of endorphins. Massage lowers noradrenaline and lowers the stress hormone ACTH (Adrenocorticotrophic hormone). Massage boosts the immune system, stabilises blood sugar levels, improves lung function and peak air flow, it generally reduces the number of visits to the doctor whilst increasing work productivity.


Regular massage can help to reduce our anxiety levels. Research by Tiffany Fields, at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in the USA looked into the therapeutic value of massage in reducing anxiety and depression. The data from this study indicated that massage produced marked reductions in anxiety and depression in people who were massaged, but not in a control group who were not massaged. Mood and sleep patterns also improved they slept more soundly and for longer periods of time. The subjects massaged were found to have lower levels of cortisol stress hormone in their saliva and depressed people also had lower levels of urinary cortisol and noradrenaline which increase in times of stress.

Other studies have confirmed this research. Adults with chronic anxiety problems, people with muscle tension, aches and pains etc, who did not improve after being given anti-anxiety medication/antidepressants, muscle relaxants and relaxation training, were given a course of massage. Afterwards most reported less tension, pain and need for medication.


Andrew Vickers, a researcher formerly with the Research Council for Complementary Medicine who carried out research into the value of complementary medicine's in psychological health problems which was published in the journal "Psychiatry in Practise", said it's far too simplistic to say massage can cure depression or other diseases, but it can help us to cope better and improve the quality of life.


Our skin is full of many millions of nerve receptors that are linked to our nervous system. When the skin is massaged it causes stimulation and release of chemicals in the brain like serotonin that help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

It's known that the skin and nervous system are intimately connected. A single part of the developing foetus known as the neuroectoderm gives rise to both.


You don't have to have a full body massage to obtain the benefits of massage, you can massage the head and shoulders to induce relaxation, you don't even have to get undressed or use massage oils. You can visit a qualified head massage therapist but it can work out expensive. The best philosophy is to be as self sufficient as possible. Many Adult Education Centres now run relatively low priced courses in head massage with reduced fees for those on DSS benefits.


Massage has been shown to be beneficial in many physical and psychological health problems such as Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Anaemia, Pain, Back Pain, Insomnia, Pregnancy, High Blood Pressure, Asthma, Infertility, Eating Disorders, Diabetes Mellitus, Human Defficiency Virus, to name but a few.


If you have a chronic health problem it is wise to check with your GP that it is okay for you to receive massage. In a small minority of cases, massage may have to be used with caution in people who suffer epilepsy. Be careful when using head and neck massage if you have skeletal, neck problems. Don't massage wounds, lumps, infected or damaged/diseased areas of skin.

Finally, research has indicated that not only the person being massaged benefits from massage, the person applying the massage also gains health benefits. A study at the Touch Research Institute, in the USA found that people who gave shoulder massages to their relatives reported feeling less depressed.


1. Bentley Eilean (2000) Head, Neck & Shoulders Massage: a Step-By-Step Guide, St Martins Press.

2. Fields T. (2000) Touch Therapy,Churchill Livingstone.

3. Fritz S. (1995) Therapeutic Massage, Mosby Lifeline.

4. Jackson A. (1993) Massage Therapy, Optima.

5. Wallcraft J. (1998) Healing Minds, Mental Health Foundation.


Self Massage Part I

Self Massage Part II