Benefits of Massage

Acupuncture: Conditions Treated
May 3, 2016

Benefits of Massage

Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.

Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain


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Theories behind what massage might do include blocking nociception (gate control theory), activating the parasympathetic nervous system which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph and improving sleep (1) but such effects are yet to be proven by well designed clinical studies.

Single dose effects

Pain Relief: Relief from pain due to musculoskeletal injuries and other causes is cited as a major benefit of massage. (1)  In one study, cancer patients self-reported symptomatic relief of pain (3) (4)  Massage can also relieve tension headaches, Shiatsu, Acupressure or pressure point massage may be more beneficial than classic Swedish massage in relieving back pain. (8)

State Anxiety:  Massage has been shown to reduce state anxiety, a transient measure of anxiety in a given situations. (20)

Blood Pressure & Heart Rate:  Massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate as temporary effects.  (20

Attention: After massage, EEgG patterns indicate enhanced performance and alertness on mathmatical computations, with the effects perhaps being mediated by decreased stress hormones.

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Other:  Massage also stimulates the immune system (9) by increasing peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs).

Multiple Dose Effects:

Pain Relief:  When combined with education and exercises, massage might help sub-acute, chronic, non specific low back pain. (6) Furthermore, massage has been shown to reduce pain experienced in the days or weeks after treatment. (2)

Trait Anxiety:  Massage has been shown to reduce trait anxiety; a persons’  general susceptibility to anxiety. (2)

Depression:  Massage has been shown to reduce subclinical depression (2)

Diseases: Massage, involving stretching, has been shown to help with spastic displagia resulting from Cerebral palsy in a a small pilot study (7).

Sources Cited:

1. “Massage Therapy as CAM”.  The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) (2006-09-01)).  Retrieved on 2007-09-6.

2. “A Meta-Analysis if Massage Therapy Research.” (PDF). Psychological Bulletin (2004). Retrieved on 2008-01-12.

3. “Massage therapy for symptom control: outcome study at a major cancer center.”.  NcBI PubMed (2004-09-12).  Retrieved on 2007-09-111.

4.  Grealish L, Lomasney A, Whitman B. (2000).  “Foot massage. A nursing intervention modify the distressing symptoms of pain and nausea in patients hospitalized with cancer (abstract)”.  PubMed NCBO. Retrieved on 2006-03-07.

5.  Furlan, A, Brosseau L, Imamura M, Irvin E (2002).  “Massage for low back pain.” Chochrane Database Syst Rev: CD0039. doi:10.1002/14611818.CD0039. PMID 1207/6429

6.  Kuriyama, H. (2001). “Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage (abstract)”. Evidence based Complementary and Alternative Medice 2 (2): 179-184.doi: 10.1093/ecam/neh087. PMID 147118

7. Macgregor R, Cambell R, Gladden MH, Tennant N, Young D (2007). “Effects of massage on the mechanical behavior of muscles in adolescents with spastic diplegia: a pilot study”. Developmental medicine and child neurology 49 (3): 187-9. MID 1731174

8. “Massage for low back pain.” NCBI PubMed (2002). Retrieved on 2007-09-28

9. Muscolino, J (2004). “Anatomy of a Research Article” (PDF). Massage Therapy Foundation. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.

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