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Research indicates efficacy of massage therapy for variety of health issues

Years of research evidence support the efficacy of massage therapy for many important health treatments, especially for pain relief and pain management, according to recently published findings of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

September 19, 2018  By American Massage Therapy Association

These include massage therapy for:

Chronic pain management (such as back pain, headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, neck and shoulder pain, and fibromyalgia); Behavioral health treatment (anxiety and stress, depression, PTSD, and substance use disorder recovery); Rehabilitation/physical training (athletic training/injury treatment, ergonomics and job-related injuries, cardiac rehab, joint replacement surgery, and scar management); and Acute medical conditions (cancer management, post-operative pain, lymphatic drainage, and maternity and newborn care).

Numerous studies demonstrate that massage therapy can provide relief for patients with chronic back pain. One study of women with chronic low back pain indicated that participants who received massage therapy had a greater decrease in pain intensity and disability than the participants who received physical therapy.1

Two meta-analyses found that massage therapy yielded greater pain reduction when compared to inactive therapies for neck and shoulder pain.2,3 A study of 46 adults with hand pain were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or standard treatment control group. The massage group received massage on the affected hand once a week for four weeks, as well as being taught self-massage techniques. When compared to the control group, those participants receiving massage had less pain and greater grip strength after the first and last session. Lower scores on anxiety, depressed mood and sleep disturbance scales were also realized.4


“Incorporating massage therapy into approaches to pain management can help many suffering both chronic and acute pain,” says AMTA President Joan Nichols. “And, more people than ever have seen the value and effect of this approach.”

Surveys of consumers over the past three years indicate that at least 70 percent of adult Americans who had a massage in a 12 month period sought the massage for health or medical reasons, including pain relief, stiffness or spasms, injury recovery, migraines, and for stress relief. Approximately 50 million American adults who have a professional massage each year discuss massage therapy with their doctors or health care providers. Of those, 61 percent of their physicians referred them to a massage therapist, strongly recommended massage therapy or encouraged them to get a massage. 5

1. Kamali F, Panahi F, Ebrahimi S, Abbasi L., Comparison between massage and routine physical therapy in women with sub acute and chronic nonspecific low back pain, J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2014;27(4):475-80. doi: 10.3233/BMR-140468.

2. Cheng YH, Huang GC. Efficacy of massage therapy on pain and dysfunction in patients with neck pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Altern Med. 2014 22

3. Kong LJ, Zhan HS, Cheng YW, Yuan WA, Chen B, Fang M (2013) Massage therapy for neck and shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med Epub. PMCID: PMC3600270

4. Moraska A, Chandler C, Edmiston-Schaetzel A, Franklin G, Calenda EL, Enebo B (2008) Comparison of a targeted and general massage protocol on strength, function and symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized pilot study. J Altern Complement Med 14: 259-267.

5. American Massage Therapy Association 21st annual consumer survey conducted by ORC International. This report presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted among two national probability samples, which, when combined, consists of 1,005 adults, 504 men and 501 women 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States. 504 interviews were from the landline sample and 501 interviews from the cell phone sample. Interviewing for this survey was completed on July 20-23, 2017.

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