Massage therapy and psychology may seem like two disciplines that are not associated with one another, but they are actually inextricably linked. Unlike a standard massage, massage therapy is a type of treatment that is done by a trained and certified medical professional. Its aim is to manipulate the soft tissues of the body — muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, and skin — using different degrees of pressure and movement. While its benefits are mostly centered on the physical benefits, it also has puts an emphasis on one’s mental health too.

As mentioned in our ‘4 Ways Massage Therapy Benefits Athletes’ post, massage therapy results in improved sleep, better flexibility and range of motion, reduced muscle spasms, and enhanced relaxation. Then again, multiples studies show that it also has a number of psychological benefits. Psychology Today highlights how massage therapy has the unique ability to reduce stress and anxiety. They are posited to be linked to changes in EEG activity, decreased levels of cortisol, and increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the body that acts automatically to calm the body and brain during stress.

Additionally, there is also consistent anecdotal evidence that suggests that massage therapy is effective for stress reduction, and positive findings of open trials conclude that regular massage therapy reduces the severity of chronic moderate anxiety in general. What’s more, patients who struggle with chronic stress who undergo regular massage therapy reported reduced anxiety, improved emotional resilience, and enhanced feelings of general well-being.

This just goes to show that massage therapy is worth trying, regardless of whether or not you’re dealing with anxiety and stress. But it would be best if you were to get this type of massage from those who are properly trained to reap all the benefits. A study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork found that massage therapists who have greater self-awareness are more capable of influencing how clients respond to them, thereby reducing their clients’ distress.

It’s thanks to Carl Rogers’ work that massage therapists are more empathic about what their patients need. A pillar of person-centered therapy — and by extension, massage therapy — he proposed that it’s imperative that therapists seek to understand and accept their clients, as only then can they begin to help change and improve their patients’ well-being. Up to this day, his work is still being widely taught in various educational institutions, and even became the cornerstone of many professions such as social work, education, and childcare.

It’s also worth noting that today’s professionals who study psychology both on-campus and online, will have had opportunities to apply these theories in the real world due to the increased demand for holistic psychology. In particular, online learning has allowed for a much wider spectrum of psychology to be taught at higher education depending on the student’s interests. Those who graduate from Maryville University’s online psychology degree program will be ready to use these different concepts in rehabilitation clinics and counseling centers where massage is already a key part of the treatment. Thanks to how widely these concepts are now studied, you won’t have to look too hard to find someone who specializes in this field.

Massage therapy has the capability to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve a person’s general well-being. But if you truly want to gain these benefits, enlist the help of a properly trained and certified massage therapist to make the most out of the therapy. After all, as health writer Aurelio Locsin stated, massage therapists not only have the skill, physical strength, and dexterity to manipulate muscles and soft tissues, but they can also empathize with a patient’s physical, emotional, and mental state, as well as being able to listen carefully and communicate verbally, resulting in the best treatment possible.

Written by Alyssa Brooke Clarke
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