Research on Massage


Helping Breast Cancer Survivors Cope Emotionally and Physically

Research shows therapeutic massage is an effective complement to traditional medical care for women suffering from the trauma of undergoing a lumpectomy, mastectomy or breast reconstruction. Pre-surgery, massage relaxes muscle tissue and increases the flow of lymph. 

Post surgery, women who use specialized lymph drainage techniques from a well-trained massage therapist as part of their treatment for lymphedema may experience less pain and swelling, as massage helps disperse build-up of lymphatic fluid.

Although the physiological benefits are important, many women who’ve undergone breast cancer treatment report that the emotional benefits of massage are paramount. Women report that massage helps them reconnect with their bodies after this invasive surgery.

From the February, 2000 issue of E-Touch, a newsletter of the American Massage Therapy Association


Geriatric Massage

Several studies have investigated whether massage therapy can relieve some of the symptoms of two common conditions associated with aging: osteoarthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Osteoarthritis: Massage therapy is a commonly used complementary therapy by older adults with osteoarthritis (OA). A 2001 survey conducted in the state of Washington found that 57 percent of the 122 respondents with diagnosed OA reported having used massage therapy within the last five months, more than chiropractic (21 percent) or over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements (17 percent). Seniors with more functional disability were more likely to use any complementary therapy compared to those with less severe symptoms. The implications are that clients seeking massage may be more affected by OA, and that how well they can perform activities of daily living could be a useful outcome measure for evaluating treatment effectiveness.

Alzheimer's Disease: There is a larger body of research, particularly in the nursing literature, on massage therapy and Alzheimer's disease. An early 1995 study tested brief hand massage and therapeutic touch as interventions to reduce agitation behavior in patients with dementia. While massage was more effective than therapeutic touch in producing a relaxation response, neither intervention reduced agitation behaviors. A subsequent study using slow-stroke back massage found that physical expressions of agitation such as pacing, wandering and resisting were decreased when slow-stroke massage was applied, while verbal displays of agitation, the most frequently cited form of agitation in community-dwelling individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, were not reduced.

Medical Massage Benefits

How massage in a hospital setting can have a profound effect on the healing process, and doctors agree.

Chair Massage Benefits


Workplace Massage is Good for Business

Research has validated the positive effects of massage therapy on job performance and mental alertness resulting in improved accuracy and the reduced stress-induced illnesses.

American Institute of Stress states that an estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress. Repetitive musculoskeletal injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome have become the nation’s leading workplace health cost and account for almost a third of all workers’ compensation awards. Massage has been shown to help in reducing these kinds of injuries, leading to reduced absenteeism, fewer workers’ compensation claims, and less cost to employers.

American Institute of Stress

“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Reaching Epidemic Proportions” (Jan 18, 2005) © Medical News Today


Chair Massage Helps Desk-Bound Workers

Chair massage counters the circulatory problems inherent with office work—and provide a appreciated break for employees. Sitting in a massage chair opens up the back muscles, relieves strain on the neck and provides a gentle respite for eyes usually glued to a computer monitor. Even 15 minutes of massage to the neck, back, arms and hands can increase circulation, returning energy levels and helping keep the body injury free.

“When chair massage is used preventively, if you have problems it allows you to maintain a homeostatic balance that prevents the little problems from getting worse,” Palmer said.

from the Office of Health Education at the University of Pennsylvania


Research Confirms Massage Therapy Enhances Health

Consumers aren’t the only people recognizing the benefits of massage. Physicians and other healthcare providers are increasingly recommending massage therapy to their patients as a supplement to traditional health care. According to one national survey, 54 percent of primary care physicians and family practitioners would encourage their patients to pursue massage therapy as a treatment. Consumers surveyed over the last three years say that when they discuss therapeutic massage with their physicians, more than 70% responded favorably.

An Effective Treatment for Low Back Pain

A study conducted by Beth Israel-Deaconess Center for Alternative Medicine Research and Education and the Center for Health Studies in Seattle concluded that therapeutic massage was an effective treatment for providing long-lasting benefits for patients suffering from chronic low back pain. In fact, researchers hypothesize that massage might be an effective alternative to conventional medical care for persistent low back pain. Researchers hope to continue their research to determine which components of the massage therapy experience contribute to its effectiveness.

Boosting Immune Function

During periods of stress, the effectiveness of the body’s immune system is reduced. Research indicates that massage can increase the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity (the activity level of the body’s natural “killer cells”) and decrease the number of T-cells, which improves the body’s immune functioning overall.

From the February, 2000 issue of E-Touch, a newsletter of the American Massage Therapy Association