How can massage help with PTSD?

Anecdotal reports in particular suggest that massage therapy can significantly mitigate and improve the symptoms of PTSD. It is believed that the success of massage in the treatment of PTSD symptoms can be attributed to a similar approach to the success of the medications: both change the level of neurotransmitters such as the stress hormone cortisol, the happiness hormone serotonin and dopamine in the blood.

In general, massage therapy is free of side effects and harmless and therefore recommended for all people with tension and stress. However, some studies now also show the special effect of massage on people with cPTSD.

Studies on the topic

Although the use of massage therapy to improve the symptoms of cPTSD is widespread, there are few studies on the subject so far that are not very meaningful due to its low number of participants.

In a 2007 study, scientists found a general improvement in cPTSD symptoms from massage therapy. This was especially true for severe cases (Price, 2007).
A smaller study with only three participants from 2019 specifically looked at the possibility of improving the sleep quality of cPTSD patients through massage therapy. In this study, the scientists found no clear improvement in the sleep quality of participants. However, the scientists themselves limited that other parameters improved by massage therapy, such as a general improvement in the mood of participants, are not reflected in the research results (Sumpton & Baskwill, 2019).

Another study did not deal with massage therapy and PTSD in particular, but with their effects on the neurotransmitters cortisol, serotonin and dopamine, which are important in the disease. In it, researchers found that one hour of massage per week over a longer period of time can significantly reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the body, while increasing the hormone levels of serotonin and dopamine, which ensure a good mood and a happy life (Field, Hernandez-Reif, Diego, Schanberg, & Kuhn, 2005).

Despite the ambiguous and inadequate studies, massage therapy can be helpful for PTSD. In any case, people with PTSD seem to find it useful, which is reflected in the high demand for massage therapy from PTSD patients.

From a scientific point of view, further studies remain to be seen to show clarity about the effects of massage therapy on people with PTSD.


Price, C. (2007). Dissociation reduction in body therapy during sexual abuse recovery. Retrieved January 22, 2020, from
Sumpton, B.B., & Baskwill, A. (2019). A Series of Case Reports Regarding the Use of Massage Therapy to Improve Sleep Quality in Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, & Practice, 12(4), 3–9. doi: 10.3822/ijtmb.v12i4.381
Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C. (2005). Inter J Neuroscience; 115:1397-1413.

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