Does massage work and where’s the science behind it?

A person under stress

It would seem that research into the effects of massage especially in treating lower back pain is available but very little scientific research has been done quantifiably around other aspects of massage.

To really understand the benefits of massage you may have to look at the other dimensions and one very important human physiological response is TOUCH.  The human body is extremely complex with millions of nerve endings and just stroking these can elicit a positive response from the body.

But researcher and physiologist Dr Christopher Moyer *believes that the truly confirmed benefits of massage lie in its effects on:-

  1. Reducing depression
  2. Reducing anxiety

Why? because it helps to relax people and reduces blood pressure.  The release of muscle tension also reduces anxiety levels.  But where’s the science;-
A person under stress

  1. Published in 1992 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, TRI researchers found that a 30-minute back massage given daily for five days reduced anxiety of hospitalized, depressed and adjustment disorder children and adolescents.
  2. Published in 1996 in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, TRI researchers found that significant reductions in anxiety levels were found in employees receiving on-site chair massage.

I believe that the juries out on this debate there’s not enough good scientific data available yet but there’s is well documented evidence from small studies to show that massage does have a positive effect.  I have yet to hear anyone say that massage made me feel worse.

The time on the massage table or in the chair just to focus on your own body and feelings can be the best medicine of all.  Do we need science to tell us that’s okay?

* Moyer. Affective massage therapy. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2008. PubMed #21589715.

Two general effects [of massage, MT] are well-supported by scientific data and widely agreed-upon by MT researchers. Quantitative research reviews show that a series of MT treatments consistently produces sizable reductions of depression in adult recipients. The effects of MT on anxiety are even better understood. Single sessions of MT significantly reduce state anxiety, the momentary emotional experiences of apprehension, tension, and worry in both adults and in children, and multiple sessions of MT, performed over a period of days or weeks, significantly reduce trait anxiety, the normally stable individual tendency to experience anxiety states, to an impressive degree in adults.

Together, these effects on anxiety and depression are the most well-established effects in the MT research literature. They are especially important for us to understand not only for their own sake, but also because anxiety and depression exacerbate many other specific health problems. In other words, it is reasonable to theorize that quite a few specific health benefits associated with MT may actually be “second-order” effects that are a consequence of MT’s “first-order” effects on anxiety and depression.