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Growing body of research shows massage therapy benefits to mental health: AMTA

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has affirmed the associated benefits of massage therapy to mental health, citing several research findings of the benefits of massage therapy to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.

October 23, 2013  By Mari-Len De

Through a position statement, called Massage Therapy for Anxiety , the AMTA noted massage therapy can:
•    reduce anxiety in a number of conditions – including patients with cancer, chronic pain and psychiatric patients, among others
•    increase a sense of calm/reduce anxiety after surgery 
reduce anxiety pre-surgery
•    reduce trait anxiety with a course of treatment providing benefits similar to psychotherapy
•    reduce the psychological and physiological anxiety levels in patients having cataract surgery
•    increase neurotransmitters associated with lowering anxiety
decrease hormones associated with increasing anxiety
Treatment of depression in individuals with HIV
Research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicates massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression for individuals with HIV. The study lasted eight weeks, and results show massage significantly reduced the severity of depression beginning at week four and continuing at weeks six and eight. AMTA president Winona Bontrager says of the study, “This research suggests that regular therapeutic massage could be a useful tool in the integrated treatment of depression for patients with HIV.” 

Reducing anxiety in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy

Research published in Applied Nursing Research shows that back massage given during chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety and acute fatigue. “This research demonstrates the potential value of massage therapy within the full cancer treatment spectrum, particularly during the often mentally and physically exhausting chemotherapy process,” says Bontrager.

Reduced anxiety and depression in military weterans

Research published in Military Medicine reports military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage. Analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage. This pilot study was a self-directed program of integrative therapies for U.S. National Guard personnel to support reintegration and resilience after return from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Reducing work-related stress for nurses

Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice shows that massage for nurses during work hours can help to reduce stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue and muscle and joint pain. “This study affirms the important role massage therapy can play in the work setting, in this case to ease stress for health care providers who, in turn, can better provide optimal patient care,” says Bontrager.


Results from AMTA’s 17th annual consumer survey, conducted in August 2013, reveal more Americans are incorporating massage therapy into their regular health and wellness regimens to assist with medical conditions.

•    88 per cent view massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness
•    88 per cent believe massage can be effective in reducing pain
•    75 per cent of consumers surveyed claim their primary reason for receiving a massage was medical- (43 per cent) or stress- (32 per cent) related
•    53 per cent say their doctor has recommended they get a massage

The AMTA is a professional association of more than 56,000 members who have demonstrated a level of skill and knowledge through education and/or testing and meet continuing education requirements.

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