Benefits of Massage Therapy
Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety.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, but such effects are yet to be supported by well-designed clinical studies.
Massage is hindered from reaching the gold standard of scientific research, which includes placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trials. Developing a “sham” manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject. It would also be difficult to find a subject that would not notice that they were getting less of a massage, and it would be impossible to blind the therapist. Massage can employ randomized controlled trials, which are published in peer reviewed medical journals. This type of study could increase the credibility of the profession because it displays that purported therapeutic effects are reproducible.
Relief from pain due to musculoskeletal
injuries and other causes is cited as a major benefit of massage.
In one study, cancer
patients self-reported symptomatic relief of pain.Acupressure
or pressure point massage may be more beneficial than classic Swedish massage in relieving back pain
However, a meta-study conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign failed to find a statistically significant reduction in pain immediately following treatment.
Multiple dose effects
Multiple dose effects
- Pain relief: When combined with education and exercises, massage might help sub-acute, chronic, non-specific low back pain. Furthermore, massage has been shown to reduce pain experienced in the days or weeks after treatment.
- Trait anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce trait anxiety; a person’s general susceptibility to anxiety.
- Depression: Massage has been shown to reduce subclinical depression.
- Diseases: Massage, involving stretching, has been shown to help with spastic diplegia resulting from Cerebral palsy in a small pilot study. The researchers warn that these results should “be viewed with caution until a double-blind controlled trial can be conducted”. Massage has been used in an effort to improve symptoms, disease progression, and quality of life in HIV patients, however, this treatment is not scientifically supported.