Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common mental health condition affecting millions of people worldwide. The burden of this disorder is not only emotional but also economic, with the costs of traditional treatments such as medication and psychotherapy adding up. However, a glimmer of hope emerges from a fascinating proof-of-concept study: Swedish Massage Therapy (SMT) has shown remarkable promise as a monotherapy for treating GAD. If you’re considering a career as a sports massage therapist, this research could significantly expand your understanding of the potential impact you could have on your clients’ lives.

The Study

The study in question, publised in the Journal of Bodywork Movement Therapies in January ’23, involved a randomised, single-masked clinical trial. Forty-seven untreated subjects, all diagnosed with GAD according to DSM-IV criteria, were divided into two groups. The first group received 6 weeks of twice-a-week light touch (LT) massage followed by 6 weeks of twice-a-week SMT. The second group underwent a full 12 weeks of twice-a-week SMT. The primary measure of success was the reduction in Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) scores after six weeks of SMT compared to LT.

The Findings

Of the 40 subjects who began the study, 28 completed at least 12 sessions of SMT and were eligible for the follow-up survey. What’s most striking about the findings is that, of the 19 subjects who responded to the follow-up survey, nine individuals (47%) reported that they experienced no return of GAD symptoms for up to one year after the completion of the study. This suggests that the benefits of SMT for GAD may be long-lasting.

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Furthermore, it’s worth noting that there were no significant differences between those who received 12 weeks of SMT and those who initially received 6 weeks of LT followed by 6 weeks of SMT. This suggests that SMT might be effective as a standalone treatment without the need for LT as an initial step.

Interestingly, among those who reported a return of some GAD symptoms, 50% linked the resurgence of their symptoms to stressful life events. This is a noteworthy observation, as it hints at the idea that SMT may not only alleviate existing anxiety but also equip individuals with better coping mechanisms for dealing with stressors.

Implications for Aspiring Sports Massage Therapists

As you contemplate a career as a sports massage therapist, it’s important to recognise the potential impact you can have on your clients’ mental wellbeing. While this study primarily focuses on SMT in the context of GAD, it highlights the broader benefits of massage therapy for mental health.

Clients suffering from anxiety disorders, including GAD, often seek non-traditional treatments. As a sports massage therapist, you can provide a valuable service by incorporating techniques such as Swedish Massage into your practice. While it’s essential to have the appropriate training and qualifications, this research underscores the potential for positive, lasting change in your clients’ lives.

Additionally, it’s not just this study that supports the idea of massage therapy as a complementary or alternative treatment for anxiety disorders. Numerous other studies have shown that massage therapy can reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall well-being. This includes the study by Miri et al. (2023) and Akpinar et al (2022). Both these studies offer a great read.

The proof-of-concept study on Swedish Massage Therapy as a monotherapy for GAD offers exciting possibilities for the field of massage therapy. For those considering a career as a sports massage therapist, this research demonstrates the potential to make a meaningful impact on the mental health of your clients. While further research is needed to solidify these findings, the existing evidence suggests that the benefits of massage therapy extend beyond physical relaxation, reaching into the realm of emotional wellbeing. As you embark on your journey in this field, keep in mind the potential to offer a holistic approach to health and healing through the power of touch.


  1. Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela J. Schettler, Erika R. Larson, Sherry A. Edwards, Boadie W. Dunlop, Jeffrey J. Rakofsky, Becky Kinkead. A preliminary descriptive report of the longevity of the effects of Swedish Massage therapy for subjects with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, Volume 33 2023 Click here to review the full research article
  2. Miri S, Hosseini SJ, Ghorbani Vajargah P, Firooz M, Takasi P, Mollaei A, Ramezani S, Tolouei M, Emami Zeydi A, Osuji J, Farzan R, Karkhah S. Effects of massage therapy on pain and anxiety intensity in patients with burns: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int Wound J. 2023. Click here to review the full research article 
  3. Reva Balci Akpinar, Gulnur Akin, Emrah Ay. The Effect of Back Massage on Sleep Quality: A Systematic Review. Ataturk Universit 2022. Click here to review the full research article 

Alleviate Client Anxiety with Sports Massage

Embark on a fulfilling journey into the world of sports massage therapy, where you’ll learn the art of healing through touch while making a profound impact on your clients’ physical and mental wellbeing. Our Sports Massage Therapy Course not only equips you with the expertise to alleviate muscle tension and promote recovery but also empowers you to effectively address anxiety-related issues. Discover how the power of massage can soothe not only sore muscles but also calm anxious minds, providing your clients with a holistic approach to health and relaxation. Join us today to become a certified sports massage therapist and make a positive difference in people’s lives, one massage at a time. Enrol now and unlock the healing potential of your hands.

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