Benefits of Massage

The purpose of this page is to serve as a reference to learn about the benefits of Massage Therapy. There are multiple pages on the web that discuss the benefits of massage therapy. Those pages, although very useful and resourceful, lack scientific references. In order to give massage therapy the importance that deserves in the medical field, we have compiled information shown in this page that is referenced to peer-reviewed scientific journals. The information in this page is not an opinion on massage therapy, but results of various scientific research studies performed in recent years.


Massage Therapy is a field that has been around since ancient civilizations including China, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Mesopotamia. Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It is, however, increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations1.

A recent study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has shown that multiple 60-minute massages per week offer relief for Chronic Neck Pain2. A similar research study, also funded by the NCCAM, concluded that a single 60-minute “dose” of Swedish massage therapy delivered once a week for pain due osteoarthritis of the knee was both optimal and practical3.


A lot of the scientific research on massage therapy is still preliminary or conflicting, but much of the evidence points toward beneficial effects on pain and other symptoms associated with a number of different conditions5. The following is a list of conditions for which massage therapy can prove beneficial4:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Asthma and Emphysema
  • Back, leg, and neck pain
  • Cancer
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic Fatigue syndrome
  • Dislocations
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fractures and edema
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Headaches
  • Arthritis and bursitis
  • Insomnia
  • Kyphosis and Scoliosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Muscle tension and spasm
  • Palliative care
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Pregnancy and labor support
  • Sports injuries
  • Strains and sprains
  • Stress & stress-related conditions
  • Stroke
  • Tendinitis
  • Whiplash

As seen above, the list of conditions massage therapy has been proven to be helpful for is large.


There are tremendous benefits to be achieved through regular massage therapy treatments. Whether your need is to have a moment of relaxation, reduce muscle tension or attain relief from chronic pain, a therapeutic massage can enhance your overall sense of emotional and physical well-being

Massage Applications


Massage therapy has been proven to have a beneficial effect on both anxiety and depression. Research has demonstrated that 30 minutes of daily massage therapy to hospitalized depressed adolescents over a 5 day period brought about an improvement in mood and behavior6. A different research study has revealed that cardiac surgery patients who received massage therapy had decreased pain, anxiety, and tension7.



A study performed in 19908, noted a decrease in neck pain after subjects received 10 one-hour upper body massages over a 2-week period. Although the treatment was effective, the massage regimen employed may not be realistic for most patients; furthermore, the therapeutic massage procedures were not clearly described. Interestingly, the effects of massage may persist, as neck pain was still reduced at a 6-month follow-up.


A more recent research study9, concluded that massage therapy is effective in reducing the number of headaches per week in chronic tension headache sufferers. The effects on the patients were observed within the first week of receiving a massage treatment directed at cranial and cervical muscles.



Massage therapy increases the level of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which is involved in the regulation of cognitive processes such as emotion. Antidepressant drugs are used to increase the levels of serotonin. Similar result can be achieved by applying massage therapy instead. A NIH-funded research study10 concluded that depressed patients showed positive effect of massage therapy. However, standardized protocols of massage therapy, various depression rating scales, and target populations in further studies are suggested.



A 2010 review concluded that massage therapy may help temporarily reduce pain, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. But the evidence is not definitive. The authors noted that it is important that the massage therapist not cause pain5.


Insomnia in Postmenopausal Women

A study published in 201111 consisted of evaluating postmenopausal women with insomnia. The volunteers were submitted to sixteen one-hour sessions of massage twice weekly and evaluated on psychological and physiological parameters. The study showed that therapeutic massage decreased the severity of subjective sleep disturbance related to menopause. There was a decrease in insomnia and anxiety-depressive symptoms. The authors concluded that massage therapy is beneficial for improving sleep quality in postmenopausal women, as well as for alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety.

A natural pain reliever

Massage therapy relieves pain for many people. There have been studies that have shown a reduction of pain in people who suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, back injuries, migraines, sports injuries, and many other conditions. In 2010, a research study investigated the effects of massage therapy on pain management in the acute care setting12. The study demonstrated significant reduction in pain levels, and also the interrelatedness of pain, relaxation, sleep, emotions, recovery, and healing process.


Sports injuries

Sports massage therapy is in its infancy. There has been some research studies conducted on athletes, evaluating the effects of massage on their performance and recovery. A study conducted in 200813 concluded that additional studies examining the physiological and psychological effects of sports massage are necessary in order to obtain more conclusive results. In a different study14, researchers pointed out that conclusive evidence for the efficacy of massage to the athlete is limited, mainly due to the scarcity of quality research rather than research not supportive of an effect.



Numerous systematic reviews and clinical studies have suggested that at least for the short term, massage therapy for cancer patients may reduce pain, promote relaxation, and boost mood5. However, the National Cancer Institute urges massage therapists to take specific precautions with cancer patients and avoid massaging:

• Open wounds, bruises, or areas with skin breakdown

• Directly over the tumor site

• Areas with a blood clot in a vein

• Sensitive areas following radiation therapy


A study investigating the effects of massage on cancer revealed non-conclusive results. Preliminary physiologic investigations of muscle in the brain suggested that massage therapy may have distributed effects that can reduce various unpleasant symptoms15. Similar to a previous research study14, the authors pointed out that a better research approach is needed. “Only a combination of mechanistic research and well-designed clinical trials will clarify the relationship between body and mind and will determine the utility of manual therapy for symptoms control in cancer patients.”15



These are a handful number of applications massage therapy can be used for. As noted multiple times, massage therapy has been proven to have a positive effect on patients. On the other hand, multiple researchers have stated that more studies are needed and a better scientific approach is required. Massage therapy has been around for thousands of years, and it is now that it is starting to become accepted as a therapy to treat various conditions. But to prove its efficacy by the standards of modern medicine, more research studies must be conducted.


We hope the information shown here will be found useful. Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.




1,. 'Massage: Get In Touch With Its Many Benefits - Mayo Clinic'. N.p., 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.


2 Sherman, K. J. et al. 'Five-Week Outcomes From A Dosing Trial Of Therapeutic Massage For Chronic Neck Pain'. The Annals of Family Medicine 12.2 (2014): 112-120.


3 Perlman, A et al. 'OA09.01. Massage Therapy For Osteoarthritis Of The Knee: A Randomized Dose-Finding Trial'. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 12.Suppl 1 (2012): O33.


4,. 'THE BENEFITS OF MASSAGE THERAPY'. N.p., 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.


5 NCCAM,. 'Massage Therapy For Health Purposes: What You Need To Know'. N.p., 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.


6 Field, T., Morrow, C., Valdeon, C., Larson, S., Kuhn, C. & Schanberg, S. 'Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients'. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (1992) 31, 125-131.


7 Bauer, Brent A. et al. 'Effect Of Massage Therapy On Pain, Anxiety, And Tension After Cardiac Surgery: A Randomized Study'. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 16.2 (2010): 70-75.


8 Chatchawan, Uraiwan et al. 'Effects Of Thai Traditional Massage On Pressure Pain Threshold And Headache Intensity In Patients With Chronic Tension-Type And Migraine Headaches'. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 20.6 (2014): 486-492.


9 Quinn, Christopher, Clint Chandler, and Albert Moraska. 'Massage Therapy And Frequency Of Chronic Tension Headaches'. Am J Public Health 92.10 (2002): 1657-1661.


10 Hou, Wen-Hsuan et al. 'Treatment Effects Of Massage Therapy In Depressed People'. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 71.07 (2010): 894-901.


11 Hachul, Helena et al. 'Effect Of Massage In Postmenopausal Women With Insomnia: A Pilot Study'. Clinics 66.2 (2011): 343-346.


12 Adams, MHA, BSW, LMT, Rose, Barb White, MS, LMT, and Cynthia Beckett, PhD, RNC-OB, LCCE. 'The Effects Of Massage Therapy On Pain Management In The Acute Care Setting'. IJTMB 3.1 (2010): n. pag. Web.


13 The Role Of Massage In Sports Performance And Rehabilitation: Current Evidence And Future Direction'. North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: NAJSPT 3.1 (2008): 7-21.


14 'Sports Massage: A Comprehensive Review'. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitnes 45.3 (2005): 370-380.


15 Sagar, Stephen. 'Massage Therapy For Cancer Patients: A Reciprocal Relationship Between Body And Mind'. Current Oncology 14.2 (2007): 45-56.

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