The Benefits of Massage Therapy

Stress Reduction

Stress is an all too common problem that has detrimental

effects on day to day life in both the long and short term. The Transamerica Center for Health Studies in collaboration with the Healthy Workplaces Center at UC Berkeley created a wellness study which states that “Chronic exposure to stressful workplace conditions has been shown to lead to a number of debilitating mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, an inability to concentrate, and emotional exhaustion. Stress can also lead to severe physical health problems, such as immune deficiency disorders, chronic headaches, cardiovascular disease, and a reduced ability to recover from illness.”

   Needless to say in the face of such long term and debilitating problems stress reduction is a far healthier course of action than simply toughing it out. The Mayo Clinic encourages us to “brush aside any thoughts that massage is only a feel-good way to indulge or pamper yourself. To the contrary, massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever.”

   In a study conducted by the University of Miami School of Medicine in Florida, in which 50 working adults participated, researchers concluded that 15 minuets of chair massage twice a week for 5 weeks resulted in lower job stress.  

   Another study was conducted by the Griffith University Research Center for Clinical Practice Innovation in Queensland, Australia. This study also utilized 15 minute massage but only once a week for 5 weeks and concluded that “the results of this study suggest that massage therapy is a beneficial tool for the health of nurses as it may reduce psychological stress levels”effect

Relief from Strain Due to Repetative Use

Strain such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome that occur due to

repetative compression of the median nerve over time can cause pain, tingling and weakened grip. In a study of 27 subjects who had been clinically diagnosed with the Syndrome “significant improvement in grip strength was observed following the 7th massage”. The study also found that “improvements persist at least 4 weeks post-treatment”. 

    Another study which also focused on more generalized hand pain concluded that the group assigned to work with a massage therapist over a 4 week period “had less pain and greater grip strength after the first and last sessions”. The study also yielded that “anxiety and depressed mood scores decreased” in the massage therapy patients.

Relief from Pain

Pain is an equally widespread problem and weather it is

short or long term we all could do without it. Massage has been proven to be successful in many different types of pain management. Migraine headaches are one example of both an extreme but common ailment which afflicts many of us. Chances are you know at least one person who experiences migraines on a regular basis. Quite a number of studies have been done demonstrating the effectiveness of massage in alleviating the effects of migraines.

   Three doctors, Younes Jahangiri Noudeh, MD, Nasibeh Vatankhah, and Hamid R. Baradaran, MD, PhD, conducted and published one such study in 2012. They found that “following treatment, headache pain intensity was significantly reduced compared to the pretreatment values” with reduction percentiles being between 50.21% and 87.33%. They also stated that “no side effects were observed, and all of the patients reported satisfaction with the intervention”. 

Another study focused on migraine relief conducted by the Department of Psychology, the University of Auckland incorporated a 5 week trial of weekly massage sessions. They reported that “compared to control participants, massage participants exhibited greater improvements in migraine frequency and sleep quality during the intervention weeks and the 3 follow-up weeks.” This tells us that not only are the benefits short term but long term as well. They go on to illustrate that “trends for beneficial effects of massage therapy on perceived stress and coping efficacy were observed. During sessions, massage induced decreases in state anxiety, heart rate, and cortisol.” 

   A study of tension headaches by Albert Moraska, PhD and Clint Chandler, BS, LMT resulted in similar results demonstrating the longer term relief effects of massage therapy. They stated that “the frequency of headache events decreased, but it is also notable that successive headaches experienced by study participants were of reduced intensity and duration and these reductions persisted at least 3 weeks following massage therapy.” 

Another study of tension headache relief for patients with chronic symptoms who presented with both neck pain and deceased range of motion received 10 sessions of massage therapy. The results of this study yielded that “the range of movement in all directions increased. . . and the number of days with neck pain decreased significantly”. 

Results of this nature where also recorded by Christopher Quinn, DC, Clint Chandler, BS, and Albert Moraska, PhD. They found that “headache frequency was significantly reduced within the first week of the massage protocol. The reduction of headache frequency continued for the remainder of the study. The duration of headaches tended to decrease during the massage treatment period”

    Head and neck pain are not the only areas that can benefit from massage therapy. At the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Ontario a study was conducted to gauge the effectiveness of massage therapy to alleviate low-back pain. “The comprehensive massage therapy group had improved function, less intense pain and a decrease in the quality of pain compared with the other 3 groups. Clinical significance was evident for the comprehensive massage therapy group and the soft-tissue manipulation group on the measure of function. At 1-month follow-up 63% of subjects in the comprehensive massage therapy group reported no pain”. So, even after 4 weeks over half of the study group who received massage therapy where still experiencing full relief!

   In the treatment of Erythromelalgia which is a painful disease of the extremities that “is a chronic, debilitating condition often resistant to medical treatment . . . patient feedback suggest that massage therapy may lead to a state of increased relaxation, decreased stress, decreased muscle tension, and improved sleep” as reported by Krista Dicks, BA, RMT, CLT and Philippe Rizek, BSc, MSc, MD. 

   A study performed at the Toronto Hospital in Canada which observed the ability of massage the reduce overall pain in working nurses yielded that “pain intensity and tension levels were significantly lower after massage. In addition, relaxation levels and overall mood state improved significantly after treatments”

Benefits Immune System Function

Massage therapy has been shown in studies to assist in

immune function. “Massage therapy increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that work to combat viruses. According to research from Cedars-Sinai, participants in a Swedish massage group experienced significant changes in lymphocytes, which play a large role in defending the body from disease. A lymphocyte is one of the three subtypes of white blood cells in the immune system.”

   A study was conducted in southwestern Sweden on 30 women who where undergoing radiation therapy to treat breast cancer. This study found that “massage decreased the deterioration of NK cell activity occurring during radiation therapy”. 

   A lengthy study was published in the Oncology Nursing Forum in 2008. It found that "[m]ost of the studies investigating the effects of massage therapy on the immune system have centered on natural killer (NK) cell activity. Healthy adults under acute stress have shown enhanced NK cell activity and increased white blood cell counts following massage (Zeitlin, Keller, Shiflett, Schleifer, & Bartlett, 2000). Additionally, adult men and adolescents infected with HIV have shown significantly increased NK cell number, NK cell cytotoxicity, and CD56+CD3-lymphocytes following massage (Diego et al., 2001; Ironson et al., 1996). In two studies examining massage therapy in women with breast cancer (Hernandez-Reif et al., 2004, 2005), long-term massage effects included significant increases in NK and lymphocyte cell numbers and dopamine and serotonin levels." The full version of this published article can be found below this section.

Lowers Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure is another prevalent issue which

massage therapy shows great promise in assisting to relieve. In a study by Steven H. Cady and Gwen E. Jones at Bowling Green State University “analysis showed a significant reduction in participants' systolic and diastolic blood pressure after receiving the massage”. 

   A similar study was conducted at the University of South Tampa, Florida which “tested the effects of a regularly applied back massage on the BP of patients with clinically diagnosed hypertension”. The results of this study found that “systolic BP changed significantly . . . over time as did the diastolic BP” Effect size was 2.25 for systolic pressure and 1.56 for diastolic pressure”. 

  Further studies where reported by six researchers who's findings where published in 2018 Journal of Education and Health Promotion. The study was conducted at the Sedigheh Tahereh Cardiovascular Center and reported that "massage therapy seems to be a safe, effective, applicable, and cost-effective intervention to control BP of prehypertensive women". The studies also found that even 72 hours after completion of the massage therapy sessions test subjects where still experiencing almost full effects of the therapeutic intervention.

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