Studies Show Massage Relieves Chronic Pain

Massage is growing in popularity around the country – not only as a way to feel good – but as therapy to treat a number of chronic health conditions, including fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and back pain.

Four recent studies add to the growing body of evidence about the health benefits of massage.

Inflammation After Exercise

Inflammation of skeletal muscle acutely damaged through exercise may be reduced by massage therapy, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging andMcMasterUniversityinHamilton,Ohiofound that massage reduces inflammation at the cellular level, similar to anti-inflammatory medications. The study examined the impact of massage therapy on the quadriceps of 11 males after exercise-related muscle damage.

Osteoarthritis Knee Pain

Research published in the PLoS One journal, suggested that a weekly hour-long Swedish massage reduced pain for those suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. The study, which was supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, involved 125 participants over a two month period. Previous studies had resulted in similar findings, but involved fewer patients.

Chronic Low Back Pain

Researchers at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattlefound that the benefits from massage therapy for chronic low back pain lasted at least six months. The study involved over 400 participants with chronic back pain, who received a weekly 60-minute massage for 10 weeks. The study was published in Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers found massaged patients were twice as likely to report significant improvements in both their pain and function. They also reduced the amount of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications they took.

The study compared both relaxation massage and “structural massage” therapy and found no difference in the results from the two types of massage.


Published in Evidence Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, an international, peer-reviewed journal, researchers fromSpain found that myofascial release (also known as deep tissue massage) reduced sensitivity to pain at tender points and improved the quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia.

The study involved 59 participants who were randomly assigned to 20 weeks of myofascial release therapy or a placebo treatment. Researchers found that immediately after myofascial treatment, the patients’ pain, quality of sleep and anxiety levels improved. Improvements were still noted a month later.

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) is trying to draw attention to these and other studies in its Massage Therapy Research Roundup.

“AMTA is committed to promoting massage therapy practice that is evidence informed,” said Cynthia Ribeiro, AMTA president. “And, we want consumers and others in health care to understand how massage can benefit their health. The best way to communicate this to them is to show them research that will have meaning for them.”
The American Massage Therapy Association is the nation’s largest non-profit organization serving massage schools, massage students, and massage therapists.

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