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Anxiety is a common mental health disorder that affects millions of adults every day. Massage therapy can help reduce the effects of anxiety and teach individuals better relaxation techniques for when an attack happens.

What Is Anxiety?

It is assessed that 18% (or 40 million) of adult Americans experience the ill effects of anxiety; 10% of these individuals also experience some level of depression as well. Anxiety can impede daily life, causing individuals to lose their job, be more at risk of illness, and become socially isolated.

Even though anxiety can be effectively treated with medications, psychotherapy, or both, these treatment options are not always satisfactory or even accessible to all affected individuals. Psychotherapy isn't accessible to all and without help from insurance, it can be too costly; not to mention the social stigma attached to therapy. Other times, medication is not enough to reduce the stress anxiety causes, and sometimes seeking supplemental care is needed. And why not seek that care as a nice relaxing massage?

One of the telltale signs of a panic attack is constricted breathing. It can be difficult for individuals suffering from anxiety to reach a relaxed state and breathe at a natural pace once their body takes shallow, short breaths. Commonly, the muscles around the rib cage and abdomen have settled into a tightener position than normal.

How Massage Therapy Can Help Lessen Anxiety

Many of the muscles in the upper body are accessory respiratory muscles, and when any of these muscles are chronically tight and shortened (with anxiety, for example), they can restrict normal breathing and disrupt healthy breathing patterns. Massage techniques lengthen and relax these muscles back into their natural, proper position, which improves an individual’s breathing capacity and function.

Massages also teach the individual how to improve their breathing (deep breaths are common during a massage), and the body how to relax. Massage therapy can also improve one’s posture, which can lead to opening the chest area, correcting the spinal alignment, and positioning the rib cage—all of which are needed for optimal respiratory function.

Massage therapy also influences your parasympathetic nervous system, causing your breathing rate to slow and become deeper. This type of breathing is optimal for bringing oxygen into your body and can make the mind feel more relaxed.

During a regular massage (like our Relaxation Massage), a Swedish technique is used called tapotement, which is a rhythmic, percussive stroke. In this type of stroke, when performed on the back, the vibration and shaking it causes can loosen mucus in the lungs and clear the airway for better lung function.

An additional benefit of a regular massage is retraining your mind to recognize what a truly relaxed state is. Typically, with anxiety, an individual walks around in a constant state of stress, even if they don’t realize it. Massage therapy helps to relax your muscles, improve your breathing and posture, and calm your mind. When the body can recognize what true relaxation should feel like, the mind can create a relaxed state to combat stressors before it becomes damaging.

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