Benefits of Massage

No doubt you’ve heard that massage therapy can benefit your physical, mental and emotional health. After all, something that feels so good has to be good for you, right? But the positive effects of massage on our long-term health are rooted in real science. From reduced blood pressure, to headache relief, to decreased depression and anxiety, numerous scientific studies have found evidence of the physical and mental benefits of massage.

Decrease Anxiety and Tension

STUDY: “Effect of massage therapy on pain, anxiety, and tension after cardiac surgery: a randomized study”

Brekke, K.M., Bauer, B.A., Cutshall, S.M., Engen, D., Kelly, R.F., Messner, P.K., Sundt, T.M., Wentworth, L.J., Wood, C.M. (2010). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 16:2, 70-75.

METHODS: One hundred thirteen postoperative cardiovascular surgery patients — who undergo long procedures and commonly have postoperative back and shoulder pain, anxiety and tension — were randomly selected to receive a massage or to have quiet relaxation time (control) after their procedure. This study aimed to observe the efficacy and feasibility of postoperative massage therapy.

RESULTS: Patients who received massage therapy had significantly decreased pain, anxiety and tension. Patients were highly satisfied with the intervention, and no major barriers to implementing massage therapy were identified.

Lower Blood Pressure

STUDY: “Durability of Effect of Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure”

Givi, M. (2013). International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4:5, 511–516.

METHODS: Fifty pre-hypertensive women were randomly selected and divided into control and test groups. The test group (25 patients) received a 10-15 minute Swedish massage 3 times a week for 10 sessions; the control group (25 patients) spent an equal amount of time in the same relaxed environment, but did not receive a massage. The subjects’ blood pressure was measured before and after each session and 72 hours following the massage therapy.

RESULTS: The results indicated that mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the massage group was significantly lower in comparison with the control group. Evaluation of durability of the massage effects on blood pressure also indicated that there remained a significant difference between the test and control groups 72 hours after finishing the study.

Administrators concluded that massage therapy was a safe, effective, applicable and cost-effective intervention in controlling blood pressure in pre-hypertensive women and can be used in health care centers and even at home.

Decrease Pain & Increase Range of Motion

STUDY: “Neck arthritis pain is reduced and range of motion is increased by massage therapy”

Diego, M., Field, T., Funk, C.G., Gonzalez, G. (2014). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 20:4, 219-223.

METHODS: Staff and faculty members at a medical school with self-reported neck arthritis pain were randomly assigned to a massage or a waitlist control group. The massage group received weekly moderate-pressure massages from a massage therapist, plus daily self-massages. The waitlist control group received the same scheduled massages after one month of being control subjects.

RESULTS: The massage group showed significant short-term reductions in self-reported pain after the first and last day. They also reported a reduction in pain associated with range of motion (ROM) as well as an increase in ROM. Data comparisons between the massage group and the control group on the last versus the first day suggested significantly different results: the control group experienced reduced ROM and increased ROM-associated pain on the last day of the study.

Help Manage Type II Diabetes Symptoms

STUDY: “The feasibility of Chinese massage as an auxiliary way of replacing or reducing drugs in the clinical treatment of adult type 2 diabetes”

Cao, D., Liu, M., Yan M., Zhang, X. (2020). Medicine (Baltimore), 99:34, e21894.

METHODS: A total of 769 subjects were included in 10 studies for meta-analysis. Researchers collected all relevant studies published prior to November 2019 and compared the results of traditional Chinese massage on type II diabetes symptom indicators such as fasting blood glucose, two-hour fasting blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin and insulin index. Traditional Chinese massage includes techniques such as kneading, rolling and acupressure delivered by hand.

RESULTS: Compared with metformin hydrochloride tablets (a common treatment for diabetes used in tandem with insulin), Chinese massage plus baseline treatment (insulin therapy) can reduce fasting plasma glucose, two-hour fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin and fasting insulin levels. Chinese massage combined with a metformin hydrochloride tablet has a synergistic effect: Not only can it be used as an auxiliary treatment of type II diabetes, but it also enables patients to reduce their drug treatments (with their physician’s approval), improving clinical efficacy and reducing adverse reactions.

Decrease Headaches and Migraines

STUDY: “Changes in Psychological Parameters in Patients with Tension-type Headache Following Massage Therapy: A Pilot Study”

Chandler, C. & Moraska, A. (2009). Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 17:2, 86-94.

METHODS: Twelve females and four males aged 28-56 — all chronic sufferers of tension-type headaches (TTH) — received twelve 45-minute massage sessions over a period of six weeks. Headache parameters were verified through a three-week headache diary kept during the baseline phase. Subjects’ stress, depression and anxiety levels were measured using standardized tests at the start of the study and at three-week intervals throughout the study. Two 45-minute massage sessions were conducted each week over a six-week period, each session separated by at least 48 hours.

RESULTS: State anxiety, which assesses perceived anxiety at the present time, changed significantly over the course of the study. A non-significant increase in state anxiety was noted at the midpoint of the massage phase, but by the end of massage treatment, the mean score approached a significant decrease compared to baseline. From this pilot study, significant reductions across the study time frame were observed in stress, anxiety, and depression for subjects with TTH who received massage therapy.

Decrease Symptoms of Depression

STUDY: “Effects of Psychoactive Massage in Outpatients with Depressive Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Mixed-Methods Study”

Arnold, M.M., Bönsch, D., Hemrich, N., Müller-Oerlinghausen. (2020). Brain Science, 10:10, 676.

METHODS: Patients suffering from clinician-diagnosed depressive disorders were divided into two groups: control and intervention. The intervention group received four weekly treatments of a standardized massage technique. Patients in the control group received four applications of a standardized progressive muscle relaxation technique, but no massage. Before and immediately after completing the study, patients were assessed by an external blind rater. A visual analogue scale was used for self-assessment, which was filled in by the patients before and after each treatment.

RESULTS: When assessed according to the Hamilton Depression Scale, patients who received a one-hour massage saw a significant decrease in the severity of their symptoms compared to those who received the progressive muscle relaxation therapy.