A recent study conducted by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington found that both massage therapy and music can effectively reduce anxiety. Listening to soft, soothing music is much less costly than massage.
The study found that the patients involved had half the symptoms of anxiety three months after getting a series of 10 hour-long massages. The researchers were surprised to discover that music was as effective as the massages.
Senior investigator, Karen Sherman stated, "We were surprised to find that the benefits of massage were no greater than those of the same number of sessions of ... listening to relaxing music. This suggests that the benefits of massage may be due to a generalized relaxation response."
The study is the first to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of massage as a treatment for patients with generalized anxiety disorder.
The study composed of 68 patients with anxiety that were assigned randomly to one of three treatments. One group received 10 one-hour massages as music played, while others breathed deeply while lying down and listening to music. A third group of patients’ arms and legs were wrapped with heating pads and warm towels as they listened to music.
After three months, all participants exhibited the same level of relief from their anxiety.
"Treatment in a relaxing room is much less expensive than the other treatments [massage or thermotherapy], so it might be the most cost-effective option for people with generalized anxiety disorder who want to try a relaxation-oriented complementary medicine therapy," Sherman said.
The findings were published recently in the journal Depression and Anxiety.