massage-chairs

The Research Behind Massage

Chandler Dobson

What massage actually does for your health. 

From headaches, blood flow and chronic pain to premature infants massage therapy has been studied and documented to bring pain relief, health benefits and medically measured results that apply to a wide spectrum of cases. 

The list below documents studies conducted around the world on massage and will be updated regularly as medical professionals continue to study and apply massage to their practices.

 

 

1. Chronic Low-Back Pain - International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

 

Clinical Study: The Use of Massage Therapy to Relieve Chronic Low-Back Pain

RESEARCH:

A 63-year-old man reported that chronic low-back pain interferes with his activities of daily living. He received four massages across a twenty-day period and progress was recorded using the Oswestry Low Back Pain Scale.

RESULTS:

9 out of 10 measurements of self-reported pain and activities of daily living showed improvement. The only exception is his ability to lift heavy objects. He was also able to decrease his pain medication and able to ride his bicycle for the first time in years.

 

Link to study

Allen L. (2016). Case Study: The Use of Massage Therapy to Relieve Chronic Low-Back Pain. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 9, 27–30.


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2. Anxiety, depression, and physiological stress - American Massage Therapy Association

 

Clinical Study: Massage Therapy for Caregivers

RESEARCH:

When an individual experiences a traumatic injury, most often the family members closely involved in caregiving experience a high level of stress. Caregivers involved completed questionnaires assessing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Participants were then randomized to receive either one massage per week or three massages per week.

RESULTS:

Participants who have completed the study provided very positive feedback. Massage represented a novel intervention to promote physical and psychological well-being among these caregivers.

 

Link to study

Williams, N. (2017). Case Study: Massage Therapy for Caregivers. American Massage Therapy Association.

 

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3. Shoulder Pain - Journal of Physical Therapy Science

 

Clinical Study: Effectiveness of massage therapy for shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

RESEARCH:

This study performed an effect-size analysis of massage therapy for shoulder pain. The meta-analysis was based on 15 studies, covering a total of 635 participants, and used a random effects model.

 

RESULTS:

The effect size estimate showed that massage therapy had a significant effect on reducing shoulder pain for short-term and long-term efficacy.

Link to study

Yeun Y. (2017). Effectiveness of massage therapy for shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 29(5),936-940.


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4. Arthritis in the knee - PLoS One

 

Clinical Study: Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee

RESEARCH:

More Americans are turning to massage therapy for medical reasons, including pain relief, soreness and injury. The study involved a total group of 125 subjects, with 25 receiving the 60-minute massage over 8 weeks, while others received less massage or usual care without massage.

 

RESULTS:

Sixty-minute sessions of Swedish massage once a week for those with osteoarthritis of the knee significantly reduced their pain.

 

Link to study

Perlman A, Ali A, Njike V, Hom D, Davidi A, Gould-Fogerite S, Milak C, Katz D. (2012). Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. PLoS One, 7(2):e30248, doi: 10.1371

 


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5. Migraine headache - International Journal of Therapeutic Massage Bodywork

 

Clinical Study: Reduction of Current Migraine Headache Pain Following Neck Massage and Spinal Manipulation

RESEARCH:

Ten male patients with acute onset of a migraine headache according to IHS-2004 diagnostic criteria were enrolled in the study. Neck and upper thoracic spine massage and manipulation technique was performed. Headache pain intensity was assessed before and after the intervention by means of a verbal analog scale.

RESULTS:

Headache pain intensity was significantly reduced compared to the pretreatment. No side effects were observed, and all of the patients reported satisfaction with the intervention.

Link to study

Noudeh Y, Vatankhah N, Baradaran H. (2016). Reduction of Current Migraine Headache Pain Following Neck Massage and Spinal Manipulation. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage Bodywork, 5(1): 5–13.


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6. High blood pressure - Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine

 

Clinical Study: Impact of classic massage on blood pressure in patients with clinically diagnosed hypertension

RESEARCH:

The study involved 10 women aged 60–68, who had previously been diagnosed with hypertension. Ten sessions of classic massage of the lower limbs were performed every day over ten consecutive days.

 

RESULTS:

For ten consecutive days, the blood pressure values in the examined women were decreasing, with the exception of the diastolic blood pressure measured 5 min after the massage. Classic massage might provide a safe supportive measure in pharmacologic treatment of hypertension.


Link to study

Walaszek R. (2015). Impact of classic massage on blood pressure in patients with clinically diagnosed hypertension. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 4, 396-401.


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7. General blood flow - ScienceDaily

Clinical Study: Massage therapy improves circulation, alleviates muscle soreness

 

RESEARCH:

Exercise-induced muscle injury has been shown to reduce blood flow. Healthy sedentary adults were asked to exercise their legs to soreness using a standard leg press machine. Half of the exercisers received leg massages, using conventional Swedish massage techniques, after the exercise. Participants rated their muscle soreness on a scale from 1 to 10.

RESULTS:

The exercise-and-massage group reported no continuing soreness 90 minutes after massage therapy. The exercise-only group reported lasting soreness 24 hours after exercise. Massage also improved vascular function in people who had not exercised, suggesting that massage has benefits for people regardless of their level of physical activity.

 

Link to study

University of Illinois at Chicago. (2014, April 16). Massage therapy improves circulation, alleviates muscle soreness. ScienceDaily.


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8. Sports injuries - International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

 

Clinical Study: Concussion Treatment Using Massage Techniques

 

RESEARCH:

This case study presents a unique massage therapy approach of a 23-year-old male soccer player diagnosed with postconcussion syndrome resulting from a fall. Assessment and treatment were completed in two sessions of 45 minutes spaced two days apart.

RESULTS:

Using the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) and self-report, the outcome measures showed diminished concussion symptoms and regained ease in range of motion in the cervical area. Massage therapy also has the potential to reduce headache, dizziness, and nausea in concussion recovery.

 

Link to study

Burns S. (2015). Concussion Treatment Using Massage Techniques: a Case Study. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 8, 2.


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9. Health in Older Adults - The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine

 

Clinical Study: Massage Therapy Usage and Reported Health in Older Adults Experiencing Persistent Pain

 

RESEARCH:

The study examined the impact of massage therapy in 60 and older adults in the Kentucky area suffering from persistent pain. They compared self-reported health outcome scores among those who have and have not utilized massage therapy in the past year.

RESULTS:

The results demonstrated that these older adults self-reported less limitation due to physical or emotional issues, better emotional health, more energy/less fatigue, better social functioning, and better overall health.

 

Link to study

Munk N, Kruger T, Zanjani F. (2011). Massage Therapy Usage and Reported Health

in Older Adults Experiencing Persistent Pain. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE, 17 (7), pages 609–616.


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10. Sleep disorders - Health Central

 

Clinical Study: Improve Your Sleep with Massage Therapy


RESEARCH:

Insomnia is a struggle for 50 to 70 million Americans. Chronic insomnia occurs when an individual experiences insomnia nightly (or nearly every night) for at least 6 months. The recommended duration of massage therapy varies widely depending on patient needs and co-occurring issues. Most studies were conducted over a period of 3 to 13 weeks, generally consisting of 30-minute sessions occurring twice weekly.

RESULTS:

Many patients reported having experienced positive results after a single session. The study indicated that massage therapy may be beneficial in combating insomnia, as well as the many chronic conditions that contribute to this sleep disorder such as muscle fatigue, anxiety and depression.

 

Link to study

Reed M. (2016). Improve Your Sleep with Massage Therapy. Health Central.


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11. Generalized Anxiety Disorder - The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

 

Clinical Study: Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

RESEARCH:

Forty-seven currently untreated subjects with a DSM-IV diagnosis of GAD were randomly assigned to twice-weekly Swedish massage therapy (SMT) versus a light touch control condition for 6 weeks. The primary outcome measure was reduction in Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS) scores after 6 weeks of treatment for SMT versus light touch

RESULTS:

At week 6, the difference in HARS score reduction between SMT and light touch was 3.26 points. This first trial suggests that a complementary and alternative manual therapy, SMT, is an effective acute treatment for GAD.

 

Link to study

Rapaport M, Schettler P, Larson E, Edwards S, Dunlop B, Rakofsky J, Kinkead B. (2016). Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Proof-of-Concept, Randomized Controlled Study. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 77(7):e883-91.


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12. Cancer-related fatigue - American Cancer Society

Clinical Study: Massage therapy decreases cancer-related fatigue (CRF)

RESEARCH:

6-week investigation of enrolled 66 female stage 0-III breast cancer survivors (age range, 32-72 years) who had received surgery plus radiation and/or chemotherapy/chemoprevention with CRF (Brief Fatigue Inventory > 25).

RESULTS:

Massage therapy produced clinically significant relief of CRF. This finding suggests that 6 weeks of a safe, widely accepted manual intervention causes a significant reduction in fatigue, a debilitating sequela for cancer survivors.

 

Link to study

Kinkead B, Schettler P, Larson E, Carroll D, Sharenko M, Nettles J, Edwards S, Miller A, Torres M, Dunlop B, Rakofsky J, Rapaport M. (2017). Massage therapy decreases cancer-related fatigue: Results from a randomized early phase trial. American Cancer Society, 124:546-54.


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13. Premature infants - Pediatrics & Therapeutics

 

Clinical Study: Massage Therapy in Preterm Infants

 

RESEARCH:

 

Premature infants are at greater risk for long-term growth, health, social-emotional, behavioral, motor and neurodevelopmental problems. More recent research has shown that massage of preterm infants while in the NICU has beneficial effects on growth and neuro-developmental outcomes. The case reported is of 30 weeks 5 days preterm infant who, post discharge at day 54 of life, had parentally administered whole body massage once/day for a minimum of 3/week.

 

RESULTS:

The child appears to have accelerated growth on all three modalities with full catch up growth by 6 months of life. This case supports the hypothesis that in-home message therapy may improve the long-term growth outcomes of premature infants. The personal touch provided by this simple low-tech, low-cost, and low risk therapy should be seriously considered for premature infants.

 

Link to study

Aly F, Murtaza G. (2013). Massage Therapy in Preterm Infants. Pediatrics & Therapeutics,  3:2, 1000155.

 

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14. Parkinson's Disease - International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

Clinical Study: Massage Therapy Treatment and Outcomes for a Patient with Parkinson's Disease

 

RESEARCH:

To determine if massage therapy can produce favorable outcomes with respect to the severity of rigidity and tremor in a patient with PD. A 63-year-old female patient with idiopathic, long-standing, Hoehn-Yahr Stage 4 PD was treated with massage therapy five times over the course of six weeks.

RESULTS:

Massage therapy treatment had a positive effect on reducing resting and postural tremor in a patient with long-standing PD. The treatment was also effective in temporarily reducing rigidity during treatment, but did not produce a lasting effect.


Link to study

Casciaro Y. (2016). Massage Therapy Treatment and Outcomes for a Patient with Parkinson's Disease: a Case Report. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 4;9(1):11-8.

 

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15. Piriformis Syndrome - Potomac Massage Training Institute

 

Clinical Study: A Case Report of the Treatment of Piriformis Syndrome

RESEARCH:

This study demonstrates the application of therapeutic massage with a stretching program to ameliorate chronic piriformis syndrome. A protocol of 10 weekly 90-minute massages applied deep-tissue techniques with adjunct modalities. Focus of the work centered on the muscles and bones of the lower back, posterior and anterior legs.

RESULTS:

After the first session, the subject was free of any sciatic pain for five days. From the fifth week on, piriformis syndrome discomfort was rarely experienced.

 

Link to study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26977216

Honig P. (2009). A Case Report of the Treatment of Piriformis Syndrome. Potomac Massage Training Institute,  2009.

 

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16. Stress - American Massage Therapy Association

Clinical Study: Massage Therapy Can Relieve Stress

RESEARCH:

Massage therapy has been shown to be a means by which stress can be reduced significantly on physical and psychological levels. Changes in psychological states have been measured by physiological responses, the Perceived Stress Scale, the POMS Depression Scale and the Anxiety State Scale.

RESULTS:

In a study on the effect of trigger point therapy, there was a significant decrease in heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure. After a 10 to 15 minute chair massage, measures of oxygen consumption, blood pressure, and salivary cortisol levels were all lower.


Link to study

Multiple authors, references. Massage Therapy Can Relieve Stress. American Massage Therapy Association.


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17. Back pain - Annals of Internal Medicine

Clinical Study: Does Massage Help Back Pain?

RESEARCH:

Researchers examined 401 people that reported chronic back pain. Individuals were divided into three treatment groups: relaxation massage, structural massage, and regular physical therapy and pain medication. Patients in the massage groups received one hour of weekly therapy for 10 weeks. 

RESULTS:

The study concluded that massage may be effective for treating chronic back pain, with benefits lasting at least 6 months.

 

Link to study 

Cherkin D, Sherman K, Kahn J, Wellman R, Cook A, Johnson E, Erro J, Delaney K, Deyo C. (2011). A Comparison of the Effects of 2 Types of Massage and Usual Care on Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine,  10, 96, derived from http://www.rmtedu.com/blog/does-massage-help-back-pain

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18. Mood and Depression - J Clin Psychiatry

 

Clinical Study: Treatment effects of massage therapy in depressed people: a meta-analysis.

RESEARCH:

The study included 17 studies containing 786 persons from 246 retrieved references. Trials with other intervention, combined therapy, and massage on infants or pregnant women were excluded. Two reviewers independently performed initial screen and assessed quality indicators by Jadad scale.

RESULTS:

All trials showed positive effect of massage therapy on depressed people. Seventeen RCTs were of moderate quality, with a mean quality score of 6.4 (SD = 0.85). Massage therapy is significantly associated with alleviated depressive symptoms.


Link to study

Hou W, Chiang P, Hsu T, Chiu S, Yen Y. (2010). Treatment effects of massage therapy in depressed people: a meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 71(7):894-901.


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