Massage Therapy for Mental Wellbeing


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Ellie Dukes

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Stress is an inescapable part of the human experience. It can range from mild annoyances to extreme psychological distress…and everywhere in between. While the body is resilient and capable of handling stressful situations in relatively mild doses, when the mind is overloaded with constant stress inducers, our health takes a toll.

What is Stress?

Let’s go ahead and define what stress actually is. Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize. In short, it’s what we feel when we think we’ve lost control of events. It is partially instinctual (i.e., running from a tiger, being late for work), and partly the way we think. These troublesome thought patterns can leave us feeling anxious, causes extreme worry about what may or may not occur, are distracted, disorganized, and in some cases, can lead to panic attacks. Stress has been shown to lead to or exacerbate certain diseases, including heart disease, asthma, obesity, headaches, major depressive disorders, skin rashes, insomnia, and anxiety.

Stress and the Nervous System

Stress affects the autonomic nervous system. This includes the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. They are responsible for two very different activities. The sympathetic nervous system involves stimulation of activities that prepare the body for action. This includes increasing the heart rate, increasing the blood to the limbs, and other actions generally considered as “fight-or-flight” responses. The parasympathetic nervous system does the opposite. It conserves energy by slowing the heart rate, relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, increases intestinal activity, and other “relax and digest” responses. Managing stress ultimately involves “resetting” the brain with new habits using our body’s natural relaxation response. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system to help override sympathetic nervous system responses to stress.

How Can Massage Therapy Help?

Massage therapy can help with a wide variety of conditions. It has been proven to help manage chronic and acute stress in people of all ages. A study conducted by the Touch Research Institute and Fielding Graduate University showed that “preterm infants receiving massage therapy showed fewer stress behaviors and less activity from the first to the last day of the study.” In teens and adults, massage therapy has been shown to improve sleep, calm the nervous system, and decrease muscle and joint pain associated with stress.

The Takeaway

While stress is unavoidable, there are ways to help relieve it before it takes over your life and negatively impacts your relationships. Regular massage therapy helps with keeping stress at manageable levels and contributes to overall health and wellbeing.


Are you searching for a Licensed Massage Therapist who knows the ins and outs of stress and how to relieve it? Look no further! I’m Ellie Dukes, LMT -specializing in prenatal and oncology massage therapy for 15 years. I offer an array of massage services that can help combat stress. Visit me at Trinity Massage Haven Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.

Preterm infants show reduced stress behaviors and activity after 5 days of massage therapy

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