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Benefits of Massage Therapy for Stress

Most of us don’t enjoy feeling stressed! However, everyone feels stress now and then, whether it’s stress in your personal life, work life, or because of something that’s happened in the moment. Sometimes stress can remain over several days, weeks, or even months. Most people don’t think about what stress really is and how it effects their bodies. Massage therapy is a great way to alleviate the physical symptoms caused by stress1.

What is Stress

Stress is the body's reaction to potentially harmful situations. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to react in order to prevent injury. This reaction is known as the "fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During a stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure increases. You’re body has gotten ready to act. Unfortunately, with our busy lives we are often bombarded with things that trigger this response. You get honked at while driving, your boss sends you a not so nice email, or your kid has a temper tantrum in the middle of the store. All of these events can trigger the “fight or flight” response even though the actual danger is low.

Stress is a reaction that we all have, and most of us are familiar with the physical symptoms of stress. Typical symptoms include aches and pains, especially in the shoulders and neck, headaches, trouble sleeping, digestive problems and clenching your teeth are all common symptoms2.

How Massage Can Help

Massage therapy can help reduce many of the physical symptoms of stress, including muscle tension in the neck and shoulders and headaches3. Studies have also shown massage therapy to be effective, and drug free way, to getting a better night’s sleep4. Massage therapy can reduce heart rate and cortisol levels – cortisol is the stress hormone, which will reduce the feeling of stress5. Your massage therapist can also teach you how to do deep breathing exercises, which are shown to decrease stress on a physical level by decreasing heart rate and decreasing cortisol levels6. These deep breathing exercises are good way to reduce stress when confronted with a stressful situation.

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1. M., Krohn, M., Liezmann, C. et al. The efficacy of classical massage on stress perception and cortisol following primary treatment of breast cancer. Achieves of Women’s Mental Health 13, 165–173 (2010).


3. Viznaik, N. (2017). Quick Reference Evidence Informed Muscle Manual. Professional Health Systems Inc. p371

4. Field, T., Hernandez-Rief, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci, 115(10):1397-1423. [link]

5. Diego, M Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M. Kuhn, C. & Schanburg, S.  (2005) Cortisol Decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine Increase Following Massage Therapy, International Journal of Neuroscience, 115:10, 1397-1413. Accessed

6. Perciavalle, V., Blandini, M., Fecarotta, P. et al. The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurol Sci 38, 451–458 (2017). Accessed