Clinical research has shown that massage therapy has benefits for many serious medical conditions. It alleviates pain and aids in the healing process.
Low Back Pain
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine supported the idea that massage therapy produces better results for low back pain than other therapies, including acupuncture and spinal modification.
Massage promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety in patients with varying kinds of cancer, and has proven especially effective with breast cancer survivors. Research shows therapeutic massage is an effective complement to traditional medical care for women undergoing lumpectomy, mastectomy or breast reconstruction. Pre-surgery, massage relaxes muscle tissue and increases the flow of lymph. Post surgery, women who apply specialized lymph drainage techniques from a well-trained massage therapist to their treatment may experience less pain and swelling.
In a study performed by the University of Miami School of Medicine, breast cancer patients who were massaged three times a week reported lower levels of depression, anxiety and anger. Benefits of massage after breast cancer treatment also include boosting the immune system and helping women reconnect with their bodies.
Other Kinds of Cancer
Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center asked cancer patients about the severity of their symptoms before and after receiving massage therapy, and patients reported reduced levels of anxiety, pain, fatigue, depression and nausea.
Heart Bypass Surgery
In-patient massage treatment performed after heart bypass surgery helps reduce pain and muscle spasms, confirmed by a pilot study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Because of its effectiveness, 60 percent of the massage group in this study expressed a willingness to pay for massage therapy out-of-pocket.
A review of more than a dozen studies concluded that massage therapy helps relieve depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry. Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine reviewed studies that measured the stress hormone cortisol in participants before and immediately after massage and found that the therapy lowered levels by up to 53 percent. Massage also increased serotonin and dopamine, which are both neurotransmitters that help reduce depression.
In a 2006 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, massage therapy recipients exhibited fewer migraines and better sleep quality than the control group. A 1998 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that massage therapy decreased the occurrence of headaches, sleep disturbances and distress symptoms in adults with migraines.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A 2004 study by the University of Miami School of Medicine explored the effects of massage therapy on carpel tunnel syndrome. The study concluded that carpal tunnel patients receiving massage experienced less pain, reduced symptoms and better grip strength than patients that did not receive massage.
Research has shown that hypertensive patients who received three 10-minute back massages a week had a reduction in blood pressure, compared to patients who tried to increase relaxation without massage.
Research indicates that massage can help boost immune system strength by increasing the activity level of the body’s natural "killer T cells,” which fight off tumors and viruses.
Massage therapy benefits that are applicable to sufferers of any kind of pain include the stimulation of endorphin production in the brain and the encouragement of patient confidence in improving their condition.
American Massage Therapy Association