Best Massage for Stress and Anxiety: Your Ultimate Guide

Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 40 million adults in the United States — or 18.1% of the population — suffer from an anxiety disorder every year.

While these feelings can be a normal response to life’s challenges, they can also become chronic conditions that impact our daily lives and well-being.

One of the most effective and enjoyable ways to manage stress and anxiety is through massage therapy.

Key Facts: Massage for Stress and Anxiety Relief

  • Prevalence of Stress and Anxiety: About 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from an anxiety disorder every year, making stress and anxiety common experiences for many people.
  • Role of Massage: Massage therapy is a proven technique for promoting relaxation, improving mood, and enhancing overall health, making it an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety.
  • Types of Massage: There are various types of massage techniques, each with unique benefits. Some of the most effective for stress and anxiety include aromatherapy massage, Swedish massage, shiatsu massage, hot stone massage, and deep tissue massage.
  • Choosing the Right Massage: The best massage for you depends on your personal needs, preferences, and the specific symptoms you’re experiencing. It’s important to consult with a professional to determine the most suitable approach for you.

Massage has been used for centuries to promote relaxation, improve mood, and enhance overall health. But with so many different types of massage available, how do you know which one is best for stress and anxiety relief?

In this article part of our best type of massage series, we’ll explore:

  • The role of massage in stress and anxiety relief.
  • The top five massage techniques for combating stress and anxiety.
  • Tips for choosing the right massage for you.

Whether you’re new to massage or looking to try a new technique, this guide will provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. Let’s dive in!

Stay tuned to learn more about each of these points in detail!

  1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Understanding Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are terms we often use interchangeably in our daily lives, but they represent two different experiences.

Stress is a response to a threat or challenge. It’s a normal part of life that can help us react to danger, make decisions, and meet deadlines. However, chronic stress can lead to health problems, including heart disease, sleep problems, and digestive issues. According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and more than half felt their stress had increased over the past year.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a reaction to the stress. While stress is a response to a specific situation, anxiety is a reaction to the stress. Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time, interfering with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.

Both stress and anxiety can have physical effects on the body, including:

  • Headaches
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension and pain

Understanding the nature of stress and anxiety is the first step towards managing these conditions.

In the next section, we’ll explore how massage therapy can play a role in alleviating these symptoms and promoting overall well-being.

Man with stress and anxiety

The Role of Massage in Stress and Anxiety Relief

Massage therapy has been used for centuries as a method to promote relaxation and improve overall health. But how exactly does it help alleviate stress and anxiety?

When you receive a massage, your body responds in several ways. First, it triggers the relaxation response, which is an involuntary, yet predictable response of the nervous system to massage techniques and touch.

This response can reduce the physical effects of stress, such as lowering blood pressure, slowing the heart rate, and promoting deeper breathing.

Secondly, massage can help to reduce muscle tension. Stress and anxiety often lead to physical tension in the muscles, which can result in discomfort or pain. Massage techniques work to relax these tense muscles, providing relief and promoting a sense of relaxation.

Moreover, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, massage can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels are associated with stress, anxiety, and other health problems.

Finally, massage can improve mood by boosting levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are known as “feel-good” chemicals. These neurotransmitters play a key role in regulating mood, anxiety, and happiness.

In summary, massage therapy can:

  • Trigger the relaxation response
  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Boost levels of “feel-good” neurotransmitters

In the next section, we’ll delve into the top five massage techniques for combating stress and anxiety, and how each can contribute to your overall well-being.

Top Massage Techniques for Stress and Anxiety

There are various types of massage techniques, each with unique benefits. Here are the top five techniques that are particularly effective for combating stress and anxiety:

  1. Aromatherapy Massage

    This technique combines the soothing power of touch with the therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Each oil has different properties, and the therapist can create a blend to target your specific needs. According to a study in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, aromatherapy massage can significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels.
  2. Swedish Massage

    Known for its long, flowing strokes directed towards the heart, Swedish massage is designed to relax your entire body and calm an overactive mind. A study found that Swedish massage can effectively reduce stress levels.
  3. Shiatsu Massage

    This Japanese style of massage uses pressure points to relieve stress and muscle tension. It’s particularly effective for those experiencing headaches due to stress. The Shiatsu Society suggests that this technique can help balance energy flow, reducing stress and tension.
  4. Hot Stone Massage

    This technique involves the use of heated stones as an extension of the therapist’s hands. The heat can help to relax muscles, providing deep relaxation. A study found that hot stone massage can reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  5. Deep Tissue Massage

    This type of massage uses a firmer touch to break up muscle tension and relieve chronic muscle pain caused by anxiety. A study found that deep tissue massage can reduce stress hormone levels and heart rate while boosting mood and relaxation.

Each of these massage techniques offers unique benefits, and the best one for you will depend on your personal needs and preferences.

Vagus Nerve Massage: A Unique Approach to Stress and Anxiety Relief

The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in your body. It starts at the base of the brain and runs all the way down to your abdomen, touching your heart and almost all major organs along the way. This nerve plays a crucial role in the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion responses.

When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it can induce relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. This is where vagus nerve massage comes into play.

What is Vagus Nerve Massage?

Vagus nerve massage is a technique that involves applying pressure to certain areas of the body where the vagus nerve is close to the skin, such as the neck and the feet. The goal is to stimulate the nerve, promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.

Benefits of Vagus Nerve Massage

Stimulating the vagus nerve can have a variety of benefits, including:

  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety: By activating the body’s relaxation response, vagus nerve massage can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
  • Improved Mood: The vagus nerve plays a role in releasing the ‘feel good’ hormones serotonin and dopamine. Stimulating the nerve can boost your mood.
  • Better Sleep: Vagus nerve stimulation can improve sleep quality by promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.

How to Perform a Vagus Nerve Massage

While professional therapists can perform a vagus nerve massage, you can also stimulate the nerve at home. Here’s a simple method:

  1. Find the Vagus Nerve: It runs down the sides of your neck, in the space between your trachea and your sternocleidomastoid muscle (the muscle that runs down the side of your neck from behind your ear).
  2. Apply Gentle Pressure: Using your fingers, apply gentle pressure to this area. You can massage in a circular motion or up and down.
  3. Breathe Deeply: While massaging, take slow, deep breaths. This can help to enhance the relaxation response.

Remember, always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new health regimen, including vagus nerve massage.

In the next section, we’ll provide some tips to help you choose the right massage for you.

Choosing the Right Massage for You

Choosing the right massage technique can be a personal decision, as it largely depends on your individual needs, preferences, and the specific symptoms you’re experiencing. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Your Comfort Level: Some massage techniques involve deep pressure, while others are more gentle. Consider your comfort level with touch and pressure when choosing a massage technique.
  2. Your Health Condition: If you have any health conditions, it’s important to discuss these with your massage therapist. Certain techniques may be more beneficial for specific conditions.
  3. Your Stress and Anxiety Symptoms: Different types of stress and anxiety can manifest in different physical symptoms. For example, if you’re experiencing muscle tension or headaches, a technique like deep tissue massage or shiatsu might be particularly beneficial.
  4. Your Personal Preference: Ultimately, the best massage technique is one that you find relaxing and enjoyable. You might need to try a few different techniques to find the one that works best for you.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional massage therapist or healthcare provider before starting any new treatment for stress and anxiety. They can provide guidance based on your specific needs and health history.

In the next section, we’ll explore some additional tips for stress and anxiety relief that can complement massage therapy.

Additional Tips for Stress and Anxiety Relief

While massage therapy can be a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety, it’s most effective when combined with other healthy lifestyle habits.

Here are some additional strategies that can complement your massage therapy and further enhance your well-being:

  1. Regular Exercise: Physical activity is a natural stress reliever. It boosts your mood by triggering the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  2. Healthy Eating: A balanced diet can help your body better cope with stress. Certain foods, like those rich in vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids, can help reduce stress levels. The Harvard Medical School provides some nutritional strategies to ease anxiety.
  3. Mindfulness Practices: Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help calm your mind and reduce anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness practices can help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  4. Adequate Sleep: Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.
  5. Social Connections: Spending time with loved ones, talking to a trusted friend or family member, or seeking professional help can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Remember, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new health regimen. In the next section, we’ll wrap up with a summary of the key points discussed in this article.


Stress and anxiety are common experiences, but they don’t have to take over your life. Massage therapy offers a natural, enjoyable way to manage these conditions and improve your overall well-being.

In this article, we’ve explored the role of massage in stress and anxiety relief, discussed the top five massage techniques for combating these conditions, and provided tips for choosing the right massage for you.

We’ve also shared additional strategies for stress and anxiety relief, including regular exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness practices, adequate sleep, and social connections.

Remember, the best approach to managing stress and anxiety is often a combination of techniques tailored to your individual needs and preferences.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare provider or professional massage therapist for guidance.

We hope this guide has provided you with valuable information and practical tips to help you on your journey towards greater relaxation and peace of mind.

Remember, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. So, take a deep breath, book that massage, and take the first step towards a less stressful, more relaxed you.


Q: What is the best massage for stress relief and anxiety reduction?

A: The best massage for stress relief and anxiety reduction can vary depending on personal preference and individual needs.

Some popular options include Swedish massage, hot stone massage, aromatherapy massage, and shiatsu massage, all of which are designed to target anxiety and stress while providing relaxation and stress relief. 

It is essential to discuss your individual needs with a massage therapist to determine which type of massage is best suited for you.

Q: How can a Swedish massage help reduce stress and anxiety?

A: Swedish massage is a gentle, full-body massage that uses long, gliding strokes, kneading, tapping, and friction techniques to promote relaxation, increase circulation, and ease muscle tension.

This type of massage may help reduce stress and anxiety by calming the nervous system and promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation in both the mind and body.

Regular Swedish massages may also aid in reducing symptoms of depression and improving sleep quality, further contributing to stress relief.

Q: What makes hot stone massage a good choice for managing anxiety and stress?

A: Hot stone massage involves the use of warm, smooth stones placed on specific points on the body to help release tight muscles and promote deep relaxation.

The heat from the stones penetrates deeply, helping to relieve muscle tension and encouraging the release of stress and anxiety.

The combination of warmth, therapeutic massage, and gentle pressure can create a soothing experience that may help to calm the mind and provide stress relief.

Q: How does aromatherapy massage help to reduce anxiety levels?

A: Aromatherapy massage incorporates the use of essential oils into the massage experience, often through the use of scented massage oils or diffusers.

Essential oils have been shown to have therapeutic effects on the mind and body, with some specific oils like lavender, chamomile, and bergamot, known for their calming and stress-relieving properties. 

The combination of massage and aromatherapy can help to relieve stress and anxiety by stimulating the senses and promoting relaxation both physically and mentally.

Q: Are shiatsu massages effective in providing stress relief and anxiety reduction?

A: Shiatsu massage, a type of massage therapy that focuses on applying pressure to specific points on the body, can be effective in providing stress relief and anxiety reduction.

By manipulating the body’s energy channels (meridians), shiatsu helps release blockages and restore balance, leading to reduced stress and anxiety levels.

Combining elements of pressure, stretching, and holding techniques, shiatsu massage works on both the physical and energetic aspects of stress and anxiety to alleviate tension and promote relaxation.

Q: Can chair massages help manage anxiety and stress?

A: Chair massages, a form of massage that targets the upper body while the client is seated in a special chair, can be beneficial for managing anxiety and stress.

These quick, focused sessions provide relaxation and relief from muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, which can carry a considerable amount of stress.

Regular chair massages can help reduce stress and anxiety levels by providing a convenient way to experience the benefits of massage in a shorter timeframe and without the need for disrobing, making them an ideal option for people on the go.

Q: How do deep tissue massages help reduce stress and anxiety?

A: Deep tissue massage is a type of massage that focuses on realigning the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It uses slow, deliberate strokes and deep pressure to break up adhesions and reduce muscle tension.

This type of massage may help reduce stress and anxiety by addressing the physical component of stress, such as muscle tension and chronic pain, and providing relief.

While deep tissue massage may not be as gentle and relaxing as other massage types, many individuals experience a sense of mental relaxation and stress relief from the physical tension being released.

Q: What role do trigger point massages play in alleviating anxiety and stress?

A: Trigger point massages focus on releasing tight, painful knots within the muscles called trigger points. These points can form due to stress, muscle overuse, or injury and can lead to discomfort, pain, and tension throughout the body.

By focusing on these specific areas, trigger point massage may help decrease pain, improve range of motion, and promote relaxation. As a result, this form of massage can help relieve anxiety and stress by addressing physical pain and discomfort often associated with tension and stress.

Q: Is prenatal massage a suitable option for pregnant women experiencing anxiety and stress?

A: Prenatal massage, a specialized form of massage tailored to the needs of pregnant women, can be a suitable and beneficial option for those experiencing anxiety and stress. Prenatal massage aims to reduce pregnancy-related discomfort, such as back pain, leg swelling, and muscle tension.

It also promotes relaxation and can help improve sleep, which can be particularly important for stress management during pregnancy.

However, it is essential to find a qualified prenatal massage therapist and consult with your healthcare provider before receiving a prenatal massage to ensure it is safe for both mother and baby.

Q: Can regular massage therapy help in managing and preventing anxiety and stress long-term?

A: Regular massage therapy can play a significant role in managing and preventing anxiety and stress long-term. By providing consistent stress relief and relaxation, massage can help improve overall mental and emotional well-being.

Regular massage may also contribute to better sleep, reduced muscle tension, and a greater sense of overall balance within the body and mind.

By incorporating massage as part of a comprehensive self-care routine, individuals may experience ongoing benefits in stress and anxiety management.