Benefits of Massage& Bodywork
National Institutes of Health
Although scientific research on massage therapy—whether it worksand, if so, how—is limited, there is evidence that massage may benefitsome patients. Conclusions generally cannot yet be drawn about itseffectiveness for specific health conditions.
According to one analysis, however, research supports the generalconclusion that massage therapy is effective. The studies included inthe analysis suggest that a single session of massage therapy canreduce "state anxiety" (a reaction to a particular situation), bloodpressure, and heart rate, and multiple sessions can reduce "traitanxiety" (general anxiety-proneness), depression, and pain. Inaddition, recent studies suggest that massage may benefit certainconditions, for example:
- A 2008 review of 13 clinical trials foundevidence that massage might be useful for chronic low-back pain.Clinical practice guidelines issued in 2007 by the American PainSociety and the American College of Physicians recommend thatphysicians consider using certain CAM therapies, including massage (aswell as acupuncture, chiropractic, progressive relaxation, and yoga),when patients with chronic low-back pain do not respond to conventionaltreatment.
- A multisite study of more than 300 hospicepatients with advanced cancer concluded that massage may help torelieve pain and improve mood for these patients.
- A study of64 patients with chronic neck pain found that therapeutic massage wasmore beneficial than a self-care book, in terms of improving functionand relieving symptoms.
There are numerous theories about how massage therapy may affect thebody. For example, the "gate control theory" suggests that massage mayprovide stimulation that helps to block pain signals sent to the brain.Other examples include theories suggesting that massage might stimulatethe release of certain chemicals in the body, such as serotonin orendorphins, or cause beneficial mechanical changes in the body.However, additional studies are needed to test the various theories.
- Helps relieve stress and aids relaxation
- Helps relieve muscle tension and stiffness
- Alleviates discomfort during pregnancy
- Fosters faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments; reduces pain and swelling; reduces formation of excessive scar tissue
- Reduces muscle spasms
- Provides greater joint flexibility and range of motion
- Enhances athletic performance; Treats injuries caused during sport or work
- Promotes deeper and easier breathing
- Improves circulation of blood and movement of lymph fluids
- Reduces blood pressure
- Helps relieve tension-related headaches and effects of eye-strain
- Enhances the health and nourishment of skin
- Improves posture
- Strengthens the immune system
- Treats musculoskeletal problems
- Rehabilitation post operative
- Rehabilitation after injury
- Fosters peace of mind
- Promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness
- Helps relieve mental stress
- Improves ability to monitor stress signals and respond appropriately
- Enhances capacity for calm thinking and creativity
- Satisfies needs for caring nurturing touch
- Fosters a feeling of well-being
- Reduces levels of anxiety
- Creates body awareness
- Increases awareness of mind-body connection
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