You're in a dimly lit room. Your favorite music is playing and the scent of lavender wafts through the air. You can feel your muscles slowly relaxing. It feels as though your body has becomes one with the bed. 

You can simply feel the stress and tension flowing out of your body just imagining this scenario.

Music and massage have long soothed the mind and the spirit. Intuitively we know that both are effective for reducing anxiety, and increasingly, scientific studies reinforce this anxiety-reducing phenomenon.

A recent study found that massage reduces anxiety to the same degree that listening to music does. Study participants enjoyed 10 one-hour massages accompanied by soothing music. At the end of the study, their reported level of anxiety decreased 40 percent. Three months later, they reported being 50 percent less anxious. They also worried less and had fewer symptoms of depression.

This is good news for people suffering from anxiety who don't want to take medications to reduce their symptoms. It's also a cost-effective treatment option for people with anxiety who need help relaxing.

Medical experts have studied the affect of music and massage on other health conditions. For example, physicians found that patients who listened to their favorite music during colonoscopy may be able to relax enough to require less sedation. Music also decreases anxiety before surgical procedures.

How Music Works

Music therapy reduces blood pressure and heart rate, which in turn decreases anxiety. Researchers believe music affects the heart by decreasing sympathetic nervous activity, which increases during stress (think the fight or flight response).

How Massage Works

Massage therapy is just one of many types of complementary medicine therapies people turn to for reducing stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and blood pressure. It also helps boost immunity. In 2007, more than 18 million adults enjoyed massage. Massage therapy is so promising as an adjunct treatment option, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine continues to fund research to study its therapeutic benefits.

During a massage, a trained massage therapist rubs, presses, and manipulates your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massages can range from lightly stroking your skin to applying heavy pressure. Massage is sometimes used with aromatherapy to relieve depression and anxiety, even in people who have cancer. The essential oils used in aromatherapy have anti-anxiety properties.

Studies have shown that a single massage therapy session can reduce situation-specific anxiety, and multiple sessions can decrease general anxiety, depression, and pain.


Group Health Research Institute. "Massage eases anxiety, but no better than simple relaxation does." Web. 8 March 2010.

"Music Helps Patients Tune Out Test Anxiety." Medscape Medical News. Web.

O'Riordan, Michael. "Music Therapy Lowers Blood Pressure and Reduces Reinfarction Rates in ACS." Medscape Medical News. Web. 4 September 2009.

Imanishi, Jiro, Kuriyama, Hiroko, Shigemori, Ichiro, Watanabe, Satoko, Aihara, Yuka, Kita Masakazu, Sawai, Kiyoshi, Nakajima, Hiroo, Yoshida, Noriko, Kunisawa, Masahiro, Kawase, Masanori, and Fukui, Kenji. "Anxiolytic Effect of Aromatherapy Massage in Patients with Breast Cancer." Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 6 (1) (2009): 123-128. Medscape Medical News. Web. 24 March 2010.

Mayo Clinic. "Massage: Get in touch with its many health benefits." Web.

National Institutes of Health. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Massage Therapy: An Introduction." Web. June 2009.