• Melissa Lea Garcia

Massage for Depression & Anxiety

Updated: May 16

Massage for Self-Care at Bumblebee.


Moraska, A., Chandler, C. (2009). Changes in Psychological Parameters in Patients with Tension-type Headache Following Massage Therapy: A Pilot Study. J Man Manip Ther. 17(2):86-94.


Investigations into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches to address stress, depression, and anxiety of those experiencing chronic pain are rare.

The objective of this pilot study was to assess the value of a structured massage therapy program, with a focus on myofascial trigger points, on psychological measures associated with tension-type headache.


Participants were enrolled in an open-label trial using a baseline control with four 3-week phases: baseline, massage (two 3-week periods) and a follow-up phase.


Eighteen subjects with episodic or chronic tension-type headache were enrolled and evaluated at 3-week intervals using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory, and the Perceived Stress Scale.


The Daily Stress Inventory was administered over 7-day periods during baseline and the final week of massage. Twice weekly, 45-minute massage therapy sessions commenced following the baseline phase and continued for 6 weeks.


Significant changes in psychological measures were detected following 6 weeks of massage (12 sessions), but not 3 weeks (6 sessions). This observation suggests that physiological or psychological manifestations from massage are not rapid changes and do not manifest until after the 6th massage session for those who are in chronic pain. A reduction in the number of events deemed stressful as well as their respective impact was detected.

The graph to the right represents the state and trait scales of the STAI (State Trait Anxiety Inventory Test). State anxiety, which assesses perceived anxiety at the present time, changed significantly over the course of the study (p<0.01). The baseline state anxiety score was 38.3±4.7. A non-significant increase in state anxiety was noted at the midpoint of the massage phase (p=0.12; 41.2±5.8), but by the end of massage treatment, the mean score approached a significant decrease compared to baseline (p=0.02; 34.7±4.6).


Trait anxiety decreased over the course of the study (F(3,45)=9.0, p<0.001) with the highest score occurring during the baseline period (43.7±5.3). Post hoc analysis revealed a non-statistically significant decrease from baseline after the 6th massage (p=0.02), but statistical significance was found after the 12th massage treatment (p<0.01). The lowest score for trait anxiety took place at the follow-up measurement (p<0.01, 37.2±4.0).

The next figure to the right presents perceived stress over the course of the study as measured by the PSS (Perceived Stress Scale) Post hoc analysis indicated that a statistically significant reduction in perceived stress compared to baseline (20.4±3.0) did not occur until the follow-up visit at 3 weeks following massage (p<0.01; 16.4±2.9), although a trend was apparent immediately following the massage treatment phase (p=0.059; 17.2±3.0).


A statistically significant decrease in BDI-II score (The BDI-II is an instrument for measuring somatic, emotional, cognitive, and motivational symptoms observed in depression.) was measured across the study timeframe. (F(3,45) = 5.61, p<0.01). Post hoc analysis revealed a significant reduction from a score of 10.3±3.0 during baseline to 6.1±3.4 at the 6-week (12th massage) measurement and a study low of 5.6±3.4 at follow-up (p<0.01), but not after six massage sessions (7.5±4.1, p=0.12). One subject, included in the analysis, reported scores of 0 at all measurement time points.


This pilot study provides evidence for reduction of affective distress in a chronic pain population, suggesting the need for more rigorously controlled studies using massage therapy to address psychological measures associated with TTH.


Read the full study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2700492/

  • Black Facebook Icon