Anxiety is a term that can encompass several feelings including worry, fear and unease. Sometimes we label it as ‘stress’. We can all feel anxiety to varying degrees at times in our lives such as before a job interview, when a loved one is sick, or during transitional life moments such as graduations or kids moving away from home. In these situations, feelings of anxiety and stress are completely natural and normal.

However, many people often have feelings of anxiety/stress with no obvious source and it can be difficult to manage those feelings. This can cause feelings of restlessness, trouble concentrating, difficulty falling or staying asleep and it can reduce quality of life.

Extreme anxiety can be a symptom for a number of conditions including panic disorders, phobias, PTSD, social anxiety disorders and GAD (general anxiety disorder). Physical side effects of anxiety may also include heart palpitations, shallow breathing and light headedness.

There are many holistic therapies that may provide relief from anxiety. These include meditation, mindfulness, a gratitude journal, aromatherapy, regular exercise and massage therapy. The benefits of massage therapy for anxiety are very similar to those of depression. Massage therapy may be a good way to get back in touch with your body, improve circulation and reduce blood pressure, and release muscle tension and pain. Clients usually leave their massage therapy session feeling physically lighter, more ‘loose’ in their muscles and more balanced overall.

massage therapy

Massage therapy also reduces cortisol which is the body’s ‘stress’ hormone. This is mainly done by reducing the ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system response and activating the ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system response.  Massage therapy also causes the brain to release “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

Regular Massage Therapy improves circulation, improves overall nutrition of tissue and elasticity of blood vessels.  It improves blood flow and increases oxygenation of tissues. Massage therapy lowers blood pressure. Massage also boosts the immune system and helps to counteract all the sitting that many people do, and also counteracts all the muscle overuse that can happen in the workplace. (Overuse injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis can be reversable with therapeutic massage!)

Several massage therapy studies have been done to measure effectiveness on anxiety and depression and the outcomes that the data showed were very positive. The results showed that post-massage therapy, cortisol in urine decrease an average of 32.7% and it also decreased in saliva by 21.1%. Dopamine (a feel good brain chemical) increased by 26.8% and serotonin increased by 31% in the urine output. Massage therapy is a powerful strategy worth adding to your self-care arsenal!

Post – massage it’s a good idea to take time to rest and relax, hydrate with plenty of water, take a warm Epsom salt bath, and focus on getting a great night’s sleep!

If you are interested in other complementary therapies that may also help your anxiety, we also offer reflexology and craniosacral therapy as well as relaxing spa treatments.

Who are we? We are The Self Centre Massage & Wellness in Edmonton AB – on a mission to make wellness rituals convenient and accessible without compromising on quality. So, from just $95 an hour (includes GST), you can enjoy a range of massage therapy treatments from an expert registered massage therapist at a time to suit you.

Download the Mindbody app or go to to book a session of restorative self care time.

Citation: Field, Tiffany & Hernandez-Reif, Maria & Diego, Miguel & Schanberg, Saul & Kuhn, Cynthia. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin increases following massage therapy. The International journal of neuroscience. 115. 1397-413. 10.1080/00207450590956459.