Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Massage and Depression

Depression is a complex issue that affects millions of people at various times in their lives. It is a condition that not only impacts their personal lives, but the lives of those around them as well. Depression is a condition without a single cause, but can be attributed to:

  • Biological triggers (including genetic predisposition and existing conditions)

  • Psychological triggers (including mental illness and susceptible personality types)

  • Environmental triggers (including family, work, and social lives)

The evidence for a strong genetic link in those who suffer from chronic depression is growing. Researchers have recently identified the SERT gene which is connected to causing depression, and further research is being pursued to develop a drug that effectively disables this gene and relieving the sufferer from further episodes of depression.

Depression can affect anybody, but groups that are at most risk have been identified. Women are up to 3 times more likely to suffer depression than men, but this may be a case of women being more likely to report the condition to their general practitioner.

Groups most likely to suffer depression include:

  • Those with an existing illness (diabetes, HIV, etc)

  • Those with a substance abuse issue (alcoholics, drug addicts, marijuana)

  • Women having recently experienced childbirth

  • The elderly population

  • The teenage population

  • The physically disabled

Likewise, the signs and symptoms of depression can be as variable as those who suffer from the condition, and identifying an individual's particular indicators is important in diagnosis. Symptoms include, but are not restricted to:

  • Sad or empty feelings

  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities

  • Pronounced changes in sleep, appetite and energy

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Being either agitated or slowed down

  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

While massage cannot be said to be a cure for depression, it can in many cases aid in alleviating a depression episode. Research indicates that this is achieved through stimulating the sense of touch through the skin, causing an increase in mood enhancing hormones dopamine and serotonin, reducing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, and lowering noradrenaline and the stress hormone ACTH (Adrenocorticotrophic hormone). It has also been shown to boost the immune system, stabilise blood sugar levels, and improve lung function and peak air flow, all of which may be affected in sufferers of chronic depression

With these considerations in mind, the best massage technique for assisting sufferers of depression is primarily Swedish or Relaxation Massage to encourage relaxation. Focus should emphasise areas of tightness to release muscular tension and provide relief. Contact should be maintained at all times, and a calm atmosphere should be encouraged.

Clients exhibiting the signs of chronic depression should be referred on to other allied health professionals to assist in identifying and alleviating the problem. Due to the complex nature of the condition, a general practitioner should be consulted, followed by a psychologist, a personal trainer, and a nutritionist.

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