Part 1 in our 5-part Series on the Effects of Massage Therapy
Massage is a therapeutic treatment with many benefits, some more obvious than others. Here are some that might surprise you or remind you to call and book an appointment with your registered massage therapist to help take care of an issue you have been experiencing.
Over the next several months, we will be examining each of these effects of massage therapy in more detail and how they can be useful to you.
The Physical Effects of Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy has been shown to reduce pain and improve range of motion2. A 2017 study found a meaningful impact of massage in addressing chronic low back pain3.
Patients that received a course of massage treatments reported 62% less pain, prompting researchers to conclude that multiple applications of massage therapy confer lasting benefits in reducing pain1.
Clients can expect reduction of pain in the short term following a massage, and a meaningful contribution to progressive pain reduction in the long term with regular treatments. Also, clients receiving massage can expect improvements in the functional range of motion of their joints.
The Mental Effects of Massage Therapy
Common feedback I hear from my clients is that they feel “refreshed” and more positive in the short term following a massage therapy treatment. Studies have shown massage therapy can effectively reduce patient’s anxiety⁴.
A study examining the effect of massage therapy on PTSD found that massage can be useful in reducing associated symptoms4,5.
Clients can expect to feel refreshed and relaxed following a massage therapy treatment, with reduced anxiety and increased feelings of wellbeing.
The Physiological Effects of Massage Therapy
Herein we get into some of the more interesting benefits of receiving massage therapy, that might not be so easy to see on the surface.
Regular massage is good for our immune systems. Massage helps clear painful byproducts of inflammation and help manage the inflammatory response. Massage has been shown to help mobilize our immune response faster and more efficiently after even a single application6.
Receiving massage helps efficiently clear lymph. This is especially important for sedentary or immobilized individuals whose lymphatic system may require outside help.
The Biochemical Effects of Massage Therapy
Massage Therapy has been shown to influence three key biochemical compounds in the body. These are: dopamine⁶, serotonin⁷ and cortisol8.
Massage therapy has been proven to reduce blood levels of cortisol and increase both dopamine and serotonin following even a single application8.
This means receiving massage therapy promotes a state of being that elevates mood and motivation, reduces anxiety, increases feelings of wellbeing and happiness as well as reducing the negative effects of chronic stress such as high blood pressure, elevated risk of type 2 diabetes, and suppression of immune system6,7,8.
The benefits of receiving massage therapy are wide ranging within the body, and if administered by a registered therapist presents minimal associated risk. The preventive and restorative benefits of massage make it a health promoting modality for anyone, regardless of their current state of health.
Check back in the coming weeks for the continuation of this five-part series.
- Massage therapy research review. Field T, Complement Ther Clin Pract 2016, Aug; 24: 19-31
- Neck arthritis pain is reduced and range of motion is increased by massage therapy. Field, T. Complement ther Clin Pract 2014
- Real world Massage Therapy Produces Meaningful Effectiveness signal for Primary Care Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a repeated measures cohort study. Elder WG,
- Munk N, Love MM, Bruckner GG, Stewart KE, Pearce K. Pain Med 2017 Mar 14
- Effects of massage therapy on anxiety, depression, hyperventilation and quality of life in HIV infected patients: A randomized controlled trial.
- A preliminary study of the effects of a single session of swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal immune function in normal individuals. Rapaport MH, et al. J Altern Complement Med 2010
- Psychology Today. Dopamine. www.psychologytoday.com/basics/dopamine
- Psychology Today. Serotonin. www.psychologytoday.com/basics/serotonin
- Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Shanberg S, Kuhn C. Int Journal Neuroscience, 2005 Oct; 115(10) 1397-413