Monday 28th December, 2020

Where do you massage for anxiety

Clinical trials show that regular massage can help with anxiety


Although there have been many pressure points, reflex points and acupressure points reported to help reduce anxiety the results of many clinical trials indicate that any remedial massage whether it is the back, shoulders, feet or hands will help reduce anxiety. This is not to say that those points are not helpful, just that scientists managed to reduce anxiety perfectly well without them.

In this article we will discuss the types of massage proven to be effective, plus self massage options that allow this without the ongoing expense of using a professional therapist.


What type of massage was shown to help anxiety
Your self massage alternatives

What type of massage was shown to help anxiety

Where was massaged

As the table of clinical trial results below show that massage successfully reduced anxiety when it was applied to the neck and shoulders, the back, or feet and hands.

What type of massage

The types of massage varied from chair massages where typically therapists work generally through clothes, through to more intense massage such as sports massage and Thai massage.

Number and frequency of massages

We note that all the trials used regular shorter duration massages ranging from three times a day through to weekly.

Special massage for anxiety

While we see many articles and videos on special pressure spots and so forth to relieve anxiety none of the clinical trials used these. Instead the used normal remedial type massages. This is not to say those special spots don't work, just that the scientists managed to reduce anxiety quiet well without them.

Table of clinical trials of massage for anxiety

NOTE: You may need to scroll the table below left/right for more information



Type of massage




120 patients hospitalised for high blood pressure

Back massage

Six daily 15 min sessions

Reduced anxiety and blood pressure


Carers for cancer patients

Clothed chair massage

Seven daily 15 min sessions

Reduced anxiety and improved sleep


University faculty

Clothed chair massage

15 min, twice a week for 5 weeks

Reduced anxiety, increased speed and accuracy of maths calculations


People with shoulder pain

Thai massage

Nine 30 min sessions

Reduced pain and anxiety


Adolescent wrestlers

Sports massage

Ten 25 min sessions

Reduced stress and anxiety


Workers facing retrenchment

Clothed chair massage

Six weekly 20 min sessions

Rediced anxiety


1290 Cancer patients



Reduced pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression


Surgery patients

Hand and feet massage

Three daily 20 min sessions

Reduced stress and anxiety

Your self massage alternatives

The clinical trial results show that massage is an excellent therapy to help reduce anxiety. However with frequencies ranging from three times a day to weekly having a professional massage therapist provide this on a long term basis would likely be prohibitively expensive and inconvenient, so what self massage options are available?

Type of massage

We know that the successful massages were all remedial type massages with the following in common.
• The loosened tight muscles
• the stimulated blood
• the worked on tight spots in muscles

Frequency of massages

As self massage is practically unlimitted a home user could copy any of the frequencies used in the trial. Perhaps daily or three times a week would be a good place to start.


We recommend you consult a health care professional to make sure any self massage is appropriate and safe.

Self massage with hands
Self massage using hands

Massage using your hands

As discussed in our article on the benefits of self massage, using your own hands is effective. Keeping in mind that you can only reach certain parts of your body and the massage strokes need to be towards your heart (one way valves in blood vessels) the muscles that can be massaged this way are limited. It is presumed that the best effects would be obtained from massaging the larger muscles, so the use of hand massage to lower anxiety would be limited.

Massage cushion
Massage cushion

Chair and cushion massagers

These are able to massage larger areas of muscle plus are easy and convenient to use so would they would probably be very useful.

Self massage allows the benefits of quality massage at home for little cost

Vibration massagers (RECOMMENDED)

As we discuss in our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications vibrations delivered by an effective massager penetrate better than manual massage and have excellent benefits. Further, it's application does not require and special massage skill. Therefore, if you follow the correct simple procedure and use an effective machine it should provide excellent benefits.
To find out more about this therapy please see:
How to choose an effective massager
How to use a vibration massager
Our very effective vibration massager


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.


  1. Ramu K. “ A Study to assess the effectiveness of Back massage on Anxiety level , Heart rate and Blood pressure among Hospitalized Hypertensive patients at selected Hospitals Tumkur ”. 2018;7(5):87–93.
  2. Pinar R, Afsar F. Back massage to decrease state anxiety, cortisol level, blood prsessure, heart rate and increase sleep quality in family caregivers of patients with cancer: A randomised controlled trial. Asian Pacific J Cancer Prev. 2016;
  3. Field T, Ironson G, Scafidi F, Nawrocki T, Goncalves A, Burman I, et al. Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. Int J Neurosci. 1996;86(3–4):197–205.
  4. Buttagat V, Eungpinichpong W, Chatchawan U, Arayawichanon P. Therapeutic effects of traditional Thai massage on pain, muscle tension and anxiety in patients with scapulocostal syndrome: A randomized single-blinded pilot study. J Bodyw Mov Ther 2012;16(1):57–63.
  5. Zadkhosh SM, Ariaee E, Atri AE, Rashidlamir A, Saadatyar A. The effect of massage therapy on depression, anxiety and stress in adolescent wrestlers. Int J Sport Stud [Internet]. 2015;5(3):321–7.
  6. Shulman KR, Jones GE. The effectiveness of massage therapy intervention on reducing anxiety in the workplace. J Appl Behav Sci. 1996;
  7. Cassileth BR, Vickers AJ. Massage therapy for symptom control: Outcome study at a major cancer center. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004;28(3):244–9.
  8. Youssef NFA, Hassan ADA. The Effect of hand and foot massage on alleviating pain and anxiety of abdominal post-operative patients at a University Hospital: A randomized control trial. IOSR J Nurs Heal Sci. 2017;06(03):56–65.

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Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more

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