Anxiety refers both to an emotional state and a personality trait 1. Anxiety includes diverse conditions, including 2:

  • anxiety25eeeAgoraphobia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobias)
  • Specific Phobias

An estimated 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety though only approximately one-third receive treatment 3. Although prescription drugs can help, they often have undesirable side effects; many people experiencing symptoms of anxiety do not seek pharmaceutical treatment. Increasingly, individuals are opting for forms integrative health—including massage therapy—to manage anxiety 4.

The effects of massage therapy on anxiety “are the most well established effects in the MT [massage therapy] research literature” 8. Single sessions of massage therapy have been to be an effective treatment for reducing state anxiety, and multiple treatments over time have been shown to significantly reduce general trait anxiety 5,6(p.18),7,8.

Research examines both anxiety disorders independently (as a “first order condition), as well as anxiety as a condition arising with other health issues in both adults and children 5,6 (p.18),7,8.

Many individuals use massage therapy as an adjunct to counseling, behavioral/cognitive therapy, and medication, as well as in conjunction with other forms of integrative health (e.g., healthy diet, aromatherapy, acupuncture, yoga, herbs and dietary supplements, stress/relaxation therapies, meditation/mindfulness, and art/music/dance therapy). 



  1. Spielberger CD, Gorsuch RL, Lushene RE. Manual for the state-trait anxiety inventory (self-evaluation questionnaire). 1970; Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  2. National Institute of Mental Health, <>.
  3. Anxiety and Depression Institute of America <>.
  4. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Anxiety.” <>>. Last Modified January 16, 2012; Accessed August 14, 2012.
  5. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Massage Therapy: An Introduction.” (Subheading: Research Status) Last Modified January 16, 2012; Accessed August 14, 2012.
  6. See also the comprehensive review:  NG Kenny. 2011. “The effectiveness of massage therapy,” which qualifies the status of this research as “good” and provides citations.
  7. Cassileth, B., and A. Vickers. 2004. “Massage therapy for symptom control: Outcome study at a major cancer center.” J Pain Symptom Manage 28(3): 244-49; Diego, Manuel A., Field, Tiffany, Hernandez-Reif, Maria, Shaw, Kimberly, Friedman, Lawrence, and Gail Ironson. “HIV adolescents show improved immune function following massage therapy.” International Journal of Neuroscience 106(1-2): 35-45.Field, T., Ironson, G., Scafidi, F., and T. Nawrocki. 1996. “Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations.” Int J Neurosci 86(1-4): 205-17; Field, Tiffany, Peck, Michael, Krugman, Scott, Tuchel, Tammy, Schanberg, Saul, Kuhn, Cynthia, and Iris Burmin. 1998. Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation 19(3); Field, Tiffany M., Sunshine, William, Hernandez-Reif, Maria, Quintino, Olga, Schanberg, Saul, Kuhn, Cynthia, and Iris Burman. 1997. “Massage therapy effects on depression and somatic symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome.”; Moraska, Albert, and Clint Chandler. 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; Sunshine, William, Field, Tiffany M., Quintino, Olga, Fierro, Karen, Kuhn, Cynthia, Burman, Iris, and Saul Schanberg. 1996. “Fibromyalgia Benefits From Massage Therapy and Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation.” Journal of Clinical Rheumatology 2(1): 18-22.
  8. Moyer, Christopher A. 2008. “Affective Massage Therapy.” Int J Therapeutic Massage Bodywork 1(2): 3-5.