What is it?

Part of the psychological state of fear the purpose of anxiety is to keep us alert and save us from potential dangers.  It is part of the normal “fight or flight” response.  Anxiety can be triggered by something like running from a perpetrator, or a trip to the dentist, writing a test, public speaking or anything that forces us to stay alert.  A healthy amount of anxiety is normal; however, anxiety that is prolonged can be detrimental to our emotional lives and physical bodies.


Why do some have people have more anxiety than others?

The limbic centre of the brain processes incoming signals, interprets them and alerts the rest of the brain when a threat is present.  At that point, a fear response is triggered.  The hippocampus, a part of the limbic system, is the where the brain makes connections between memory and emotion.  Studies have shown that the hippocampus can be smaller in those who have experienced trauma, impeding any future learning or memory retention.  Equally as important is the level of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.  Those with anxiety have been shown to have lower levels of serotonin (mediates mood, alertness), dopamine (mediates pleasure/pain, motivation/reward) and GABA (moderates relaxation, sleep).  At the same time, they also have elevated levels of epinephrine and cortisol (released during stress, elevates breathing and heart rate).


How can Massage Therapy help with Anxiety?

A massage will bring you into a state of relaxation, increasing the amounts of serotonin, dopamine and GABA and decreasing the amounts of epinephrine and cortisol.  Studies have shown that regular massage increases not only the amount of these hormones but also the amount of time these hormones stay in the brain.  As your body accustoms to a scheduled massage, your brain anticipates by preemptively releasing these hormones.


Catherine Taman is a Registered Massage Therapist practicing in Toronto, Canada.  She has a special interest in treating chronic pain, headaches, sports injuries and pregnancy related pain. To book an appointment with Catherine, visit


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