Just five sessions of Swedish massage is enough to improve the symptoms of anxiety, according to new research published in the prestigious "Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Levels of cortisol - known as the stress hormone - were also reduced. People who took part in the study also saw reduced depression symptoms.
Swedish massage is the type of deep-tissue massage that people are most familiar with. The study was carried out on 47 people with generalised anxiety disorder - known as GAD. People experiencing GAD are in near-constant anxiety. With negative thoughts clouding their mind all day, it can be very hard to function normally. GAD is typically treated with therapy and/or medication. For the study itself, a group given Swedish massage was compared with another group in which people received light touch. Both groups had the massage or light touch twice a week for six weeks and each therapy session lasted 45 minutes. The researchers found that massage reduced anxiety, along with cortisol and depression symptoms, in comparison to the light touch condition.
This latest research could be a step up in the evidence for massage therapy. Professor Mark Hyman Rappaport, the lead researcher, said: "These findings are significant and if replicated in a larger study will have important ramifications for patients and providers."