Recently, there has been increasing interest in the potential of massage therapy to help with the diverse range of symptoms experienced by individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). About 1% of the world’s population, approximately 75 million people, have autism. It’s more than likely that you or someone you know has been affected by this complex developmental disorder. Each symptom of autism is different, just like each person diagnosed with it is unique. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common symptoms of ASD and explore how massage therapy can be beneficial for those symptoms.
Hand in Health recognizes May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. Are you located in Central New York and interested in the benefits of massage for autism and general mental health? We invite you to book a treatment with one of our Massage Therapists. Make an appointment by reaching out to our Downtown Syracuse or North Syracuse location today.
Autism Symptoms Which Can Benefit From Massage Therapy
Sensory processing refers to how our brains interpret and respond to sensory information from our bodies and the environment, such as touch, sound, sight, taste, and smell. People with ASD often have issues with how their bodies process sensory information.
Massage therapy provides gentle touch that soothes and calms sensory systems. It can make them less sensitive or more sensitive to touch. This may help them cope better with sensory challenges in their daily lives, such as loud noises, bright lights, or unexpected touch, and reduce sensory-related behaviors or discomfort.
Anxiety & Stress
Many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face difficulties with anxiety and stress. However, research has shown that massage therapy can be a beneficial intervention for reducing anxiety and stress in individuals with ASD.
Massage therapy promotes relaxation and calms the nervous system through its slow, rhythmic movements and gentle touch. This triggers the release of “feel-good” hormones, such as oxytocin, while reducing the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. As a result, individuals with ASD may experience decreased anxiety, improved mood, and increased overall well-being.
Individuals with ASD sometimes experience sleep disturbances such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless sleep. These sleep disturbances further impact their daytime functioning, behavior, and overall quality of life. Proper sleep is crucial for individuals with ASD, as it plays a vital role in their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development.
The therapeutic touch of massage stimulates the pineal gland, which releases serotonin, known as the “happy chemical.” This hormone is important in the development of another important hormone, known as melatonin, that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Most people produce enough melatonin on their own, while others may need a little extra help to get us through the night. Massage therapy can help increase melatonin production, that helps with more restful sleep.
People with ASD may experience social isolation due to challenges with social communication and interaction. They may struggle with understanding social cues, maintaining eye contact, interpreting nonverbal gestures, and engaging in conversations. These difficulties can lead to social anxiety, stress, and avoidance of social situations, resulting in social isolation.
Massage therapy can provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for individuals with ASD to experience touch and physical contact. This can promote positive social interactions and help build trust. Massage therapists are trained to listen to their clients, and as an additional benefit, they may form a professional friendship with their therapist as well.
Types of Massage Therapy Beneficial for Autism
Aromatherapy massage is a type of massage that uses essential oils and techniques to help you relax and feel better by engaging your sense of smell and touch. It is important to emphasize that essential oils are not a cure for ASD or any other medical condition. At Hand in Health, we proudly use essential oils by Saratoga Aromatherapy. We recommend French Lavender Essential Oil or Good Night Essential Oil Blend for those who have difficulty sleeping. Frankincense Essential Oil is beneficial for improved focus and for an overall sense of calm, our Massage Therapy Blend.
Manual Lymph Drainage
Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage is a gentle type of massage that may be beneficial for individuals with ASD. It may help improve the flow of lymph fluid, which is important for the immune system. It is a deeply relaxing and soothing treatment with benefits like reducing pain and swelling, better sleep, and improved digestive functions.
Reiki, which has its origins in Japan, is a traditional technique used for stress reduction, relaxation, and healing. It is rooted in the belief that an invisible life force energy flows within us, giving us vitality. The practitioner uses hand placements on or near the seven main energy centers in the body, known as chakras, to facilitate the natural flow of this life energy. This promotes health and healing on all levels, including the mind, body, and spirit. Massaging the body through physical touch and manipulation prepares the body for Reiki energy healing, making the experience deeper and more effective.
A personalized massage tailored to your unique requirements, incorporating calming Swedish massage techniques, focused pressure on specific areas, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, orthopedic massage techniques, and stretching. This treatment aims to alleviate pain, reduce stress, and address any issues of dysfunction you may be experiencing.
Massage Therapy has potential benefits for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including sensory processing, anxiety reduction, improved sleep, and addressing social isolation. Different types of massage, such as aromatherapy, lymph drainage, reiki-massage, and therapeutic massage, may be helpful based on individual needs. Massage promotes relaxation, calms the nervous system, releases “feel-good” hormones, and provides a safe environment for positive social interactions.
Massage Therapy for Overall Mental Health
Stress and anxiety is prevalent in today’s fast-paced world and can negatively affect people’s health and well-being. Massage therapy has shown to significantly reduce stress on both physical and psychological levels. While massage therapists know from experience that massage reduces stress, anxiety and depression, there is also considerable research that validates our experience.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry revealed that regular massage sessions significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. The study found that massage therapy led to a significant decrease in the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, while simultaneously increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters associated with feelings of happiness and relaxation (Field et al., 2015).
The Healing Touch for Autism and Mental Health
Massage therapy is more than just a luxurious spa treatment. It offers a myriad of mental health benefits that are supported by scientific evidence. From helping to treat autism, reducing anxiety and depression to alleviating symptoms of PTSD. Massage therapy has the potential to be a valuable addition to a comprehensive mental health care plan. Whether you opt for a Swedish/therapeutic massage, reiki massage, or aromatherapy massage, the power of touch combined with the therapeutic techniques employed by skilled massage therapists will promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall mental well-being.
Consider incorporating massage therapy into your self-care routine and experience the transformative effects it can have on your mental health. Contact Hand In Health Massage to book a treatment today! Set up an appointment by reaching out to our Downtown Syracuse or North Syracuse location.