Massage Therapy Research
Massage is a popular wellness therapy, for good reason. Research shows that it provides measurable health benefits. Expand the topics below to read about the benefits research has revealed for various massage techniques:
53 healthy adults participated in a study to compare the effect Swedish massage on hormones and other circulating substances. After receiving 45 minutes of either light touch or Swedish massage, blood samples were drawn. The group showing the most significant positive change had received Swedish massage. Levels of the hormone arginine-vasopressin, which helps to regulate blood pressure and water levels in the body, was the most notable result.
Rapaport MH, Schettler P, Bresee C. A preliminary study of the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in normal individuals. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
2010; 16(10):1–10. Accessed online July 7, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20809811
A study using Swedish massage for varying intervals and timing on 125 patients with knee osteoarthritis determined that pain and function showed optimal improvement with 60 minutes treatments, once weekly.
Perlman, A., et al. "Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Dose-Finding Trial", Feb. 8, 2012. Accessed online July, 7, 2018. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0030248
Pregnancy & Labor
Obstetrician Mary Rosser, M.D., Ph.D., recommends Swedish massage during pregnancy, rather than deep tissue work. She also suggests a side-lying position during the massage and waiting until the second and third trimester.
Rossi, Holly, "Is It Safe to Get a Massage for Pregnancy Back Pain?", Parents. 2014. accessed July 7, 2018. https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/aches-pains/is-a-massage-safe-for-pregnancy-back-pain/
In studies with women experiencing depression during pregnancy, receiving regular massage from their partners diminished depression and discomfort, reduced excessive fetal movement, and decreased the risk of premature birth. Also, women who were massaged during labor had an average of 3 hours less labor time and used less medication for pain. Women who had received regular massage reported experiencing less postpartum depression and their newborns had lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone, than infants in the control group.
Field, Tiffany, "Pregnancy and labor massage", Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Mar; 5(2): 177–181
Tui na Massage
Tui Na (Tuina) Massage & Chronic Neck Pain
10 patients with cervical radiculopathy were evaluated with function magnetic resonance imaging before and after receiving 4 weeks of Tui Na massage therapy and results were compared with a control group of healthy individuals. The resting state of neural networks showed positive change along with reports of significant reduction in pain.
Zhang, H., et al, "Effect of Chinese tuina massage therapy on resting state brain functional network of patients with chronic neck pain", Jan. 2015, Journal of Chinese Medical Sciences, Vol. 2, Issue 1, pgs. 60-68
The following study illustrates how massage research must look at pressure and timing as well as technique: 45 healthy subjects received Tui Na massage at varying times and pressures. The results of the study showed that longer applications of medium to heavy pressure worked best for promoting the effects of increased circulation.
Lei, F., et al, "Optimization of parameters of Yi Zhi Chan Tuina manipulation promotes peripheral circulation", Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 35(5), 558-563.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep Tissue Massage Compared with Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID's)
A study with 59 patients with low back pain were placed in two groups, one receiving deep tissue massage alone, the other receiving deep tissue massage with NSAID's. At the conclusion of the study, both groups had reduced pain, but, significantly, there was no difference in pain reduction between the two groups. Since NSAID's have risks, it would appear that going with deep tissue massage alone is the better choice.
Majchrzycki, M., "Deep tissue massage and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain: a prospective randomized trial", Scientific World Journal. Feb. 23, 2014. 287597 eCollection 2014
Chronic Low Back Pain
26 people with chronic low back pain were divided into two groups. For 30 minutes over a 10 day period, one group received traditional massage and the other group received deep tissue massage. While both groups reported lower levels of pain at the end of the 10 day period, the group receiving deep tissue massage reported the most improvement.
Romanowski, M., et al. "A comparison of the effects of deep tissue massage and therapeutic massage on chronic low back pain" Studies in health technology and informatics", June 2012. 176:411-4
Anxiety, Heart Rate, and Blood Pressure
41 healthy male volunteers were divided into two groups, one group receiving myofascial (deep tissue) massage while the other group simply rested. Depression and anxiety levels were evaluated and temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure measurements were made before and after the test period. Anxiety, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure were diminished in the group which had received the deep tissue massage while there was no significant change in those measurements in the resting group.
Fernández-Pérez AM, "Effects of myofascial induction techniques on physiologic and psychologic parameters: a randomized controlled trial", J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Sep;14(7):807-11.