Massage therapists are trained to help patients manage and relieve physical pain. But what happens when clients have emotional pain, too? Curious?
This is a concept that Tara Mechaley has traveled the world to explore.
Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Peru, Africa, Hawaii and more: wherever Mechaley has studied, she found diverse cultures sharing physical (healing-safe) touch as a common practice for both ailments.
“Touch is the oldest known medicine,” said Mechaley, owner of The Body Spa and Cryo located in Rapid City, South Dakota. “It’s the basis of so many medical and healing practices around the world. The healing touch — having someone who is there specifically to take care of you — is a very powerful tool.”
Mechaley and her staff educate their clients on how pain, stress and mental health are all closely connected and how lack of treatment can cause issues to compound, affecting quality of life and creating larger issues.
“Depression is considered a mental illness,” said Mechaley. “The physical touch of massage may alleviate some of that heaviness and restore feelings of connectivity to one’s body again instead of remaining lost in distant thoughts.”
Massage is regarded as having measurable therapeutic benefits. One study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that on average massage increases levels of serotonin by 28% and dopamine by 31% and decreases cortisol levels by 31%, which could explain why people who receive massage report a decrease in depression and anxiety. Another study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that massage therapy is significantly associated with alleviating depressive symptoms.