How to Fight Depression and Lower Cortisol Levels with Massage Therapy
Don’t Run; Seek Help
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, on average, 6.7% of American adults suffer from Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). While there isn’t any shame in trying medication to fight depression, some patients choose other methods before investing in pharmaceuticals.
There is an abundance of statistically relevant scientific data to prove the efficacy of both conventional and unconventional methods of treatment. Regardless of the treatment used, however, it is primarily important to understand one’s type of depression, and to seek treatment if the symptoms effect daily life.
Massage therapy has been known to generally loosen up the body and reduce stress, but it should be considered as a form of treatment for depression, as scientific experiments done in the last ten years have shown it to be beneficial. Additionally, though there is not statistically relevant data to conclude that massage therapy lowers cortisol levels, other methods that do accomplish that can be combined with massage therapy.
Causes of Depression
The causes of depression vary greatly. However, Harvard University Health has narrowed down a few common causes. Of course, depression could exist within the bowels of the brain despite life events, (which indicates a genetic predisposition or a natural concoction of depression-triggering hormones), but it could also manifest after a loss, stressful life events, as the side effect of certain medications, or as a co-symptom of medical problems.
The best way to initially view depression is to take an unemotional, biological approach to its function, and then to consider life events as possible contributors. Taking such an approach prevents patients from feeling ashamed; they realize that depression is possible, their feelings are valid, and the debilitating struggle is not their fault.
A Biological Approach
Three organs in the brain are primarily responsible for emotions: the thalamus, the amygdala, and the hippocampus. Those organs interact to create emotions and physical sensations simultaneously when faced with certain chemical messengers. Those chemical messengers, called “neurotransmitters,” are quite varied and evoke different responses.
While some fighting depression may have suppressed levels of serotonin, which regulates sleep, appetite, and moods, others may lack glutamate, which causes bi-polar depression and schizophrenia, or dopamine, which causes psychosis.
They may also lack proper levels of acetlycholine, which impairs memory, or need help replenishing Gamma-aminobutyric, an amino acid that keeps anxiety at bay.
Massage Therapy as Treatment
The types of treatment vary as much as the causes. Massage therapy and aromatherapy can be combined to fight depression and lower cortisol levels, therefore restoring positive emotions and lowering blood pressure.
Additionally, massage can give patients a chance to feel physically, while emptying the brain emotionally. In 2008, Dr. Christopher A. Moyer qualified an abundance of research consistently showing an improved state in depressed people who received massage therapy.
In 2010, a study done at I-Shou University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, yielded significantly positive results of applying massage therapy to depressed subjects.
The American Massage Therapy Association affirms that massage improves a depressed state, among a host of other conditions. When therapists focus on trigger points, massage can improve blood flow, reduce heart rate, and lower blood pressure, as well as loosen muscles that experience chronic pain associated with depression.
What About Cortisol?
Though Dr. Moyer acknowledges the positive effects of massage on a depressed state, upon reviewing the statistics of studies done using “cortisol level” as a controlled variable, he is less certain about massage therapy lowering cortisol levels effectively. Do not be mistaken; there is some positive correlation that massage reduces blood pressure, but in the scientific world, statistically irrelevant evidence is the same as no evidence at all.
However, other practices, like aromatherapy, have been proven to lower cortisol levels, and they can be combined with traditional massage therapy to compensate for the lack of effectiveness of massage alone.
A 2009 study from the Youngnam Foreign Language College in Gyeongsan, Republic of Korea, yielded positive results for the treatment group receiving aromatherapy versus the placebo group.
The American College of Healthcare Sciences recommends essential oils from Lavender, which is widely recognized, to Bergamot, Clary Sage, Ylang Ylang, Frankincense, and Roman Chamomile. Aromatherapy is among the most effective alternative treatments: Undepress Top Ten Methods.
Keep It Simple
The brain and body are connected in intricate and fascinating ways. It is therefore possible to combine treatments of mental and physical health to reach one’s highest and healthiest potential.
Though many more methods of depression treatment exist, and each method should be tailored to the particular type of depression, massage therapy and aromatherapy are simple, harmless, and the scientific community has acknowledged their efficacy.
Don’t run from depression; talk to a doctor, understand the process of depression in the brain and body, and give simple treatments a try.
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By Ethel Huizar
Ethel Huizar is a Health Promoter who graduated from Master of Public Health, University of Colorado. Ethel is keen on exploring health-related topics, writing and doing research. She appreciates being a good writer in health-related problems. Her writing aims to inform people on the number of ways nature and science can help them lead healthier lives. That is why she recently started a project named Health Row, a site with great health tips, descriptions of medical devices and information about medical conditions.
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