Studies on the benefits of massage (English only)

The benefits of massage therapy have been documented for more than a decade. Here are a few studies and articles with the source of the article.

Anxiety

Shulman, K.R. & Jones, G.E. (1996). The effectiveness of massage therapy intervention on reducing anxiety in the work place. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 32, 160-173.

METHOD: An on-site chair massage therapy program was provided to reduce anxiety levels of 18 employees in a downsizing organization. 15 control group Ss participated in break therapy. Subjects’ stress levels were measured with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, which was administered twice during pretest, post test, and delayed post test to achieve stable measures.
RESULTS: Significant reductions in anxiety levels were found for the massage group.

Back Pain

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., Theakston, H. & Burman, I. (2000). Chronic lower back pain is reduced and range of motion improved with massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 99, 1-15.

METHOD: A randomized between-groups design evaluated massage therapy versus relaxation for chronic low back pain. Treatment effects were evaluated for reducing pain, depression, anxiety and stress hormones, and sleeplessness and for improving trunk range of motion associated with chronic low back pain.
RESULTS: By the end of the study, the massage therapy group, as compared to the relaxation group, reported experiencing less pain, depression, anxiety and improved sleep. They also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance, and their serotonin and dopamine levels were higher.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Field, T., Diego, M., Cullen, C., Hartshorn, K., Gruskin, A., Hernandez-Reif, M., & Sunshine, W. (In Review). Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are lessened following massage therapy.

METHOD: The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of massage therapy for relieving the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Sixteen adults with CTS symptoms were randomized to a 4-week massage therapy or control group. Participants in the massage therapy group were taught a self-massage routine that was done daily at home. They were also massaged once a week by a therapist. The participants’ diagnosis was based on a nerve conduction velocity test, the Phalen test, and the Tinel sign test performed by a physician. The participants were also given the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the Profile of Mood States (POMS), a visual analog scale for pain and a test of grip strength.
RESULTS: Participants in the massage therapy group improved on median peak latency and grip strength. They also experienced lower levels of perceived pain, anxiety, and depressed mood. The results suggest that symptoms of CTS might be relieved by a daily regimen of massage therapy.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Field, T, Sunshine, W., Hernandez-Reif, M., Quintino, O., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C., & Burman, I. (1997). Chronic fatigue syndrome: massage therapy effects on depression and somatic symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 3, 43-51.

METHOD: Twenty chronic fatigue syndrome subjects were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or a SHAM TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation) control group.
RESULTS: Immediately following the massage therapy versus SHAM TENS on the first and last days of the study the massage therapy group had lower depression and anxiety scores and lower cortisol levels. Longer-term effects (last day versus first day) suggested that the massage therapy versus the SHAM TENS group had lower depression, emotional distress and somatic symptom scores, more hours of sleep and lower epinephrine and cortisol levels.

Dancers

Leivadi, S., Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., O’Rourke, M., D’Arienzo, S., Lewis, D., del Pino, N., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C. Massage Therapy and Relaxation Effects on University Dance Students. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 3, 108-112.

METHOD: Thirty female university dancers were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or relaxation therapy group. The therapies consisted of 30-minute sessions twice a week for five weeks.
RESULTS: Both groups reported less depressed mood and lowered anxiety levels. However, saliva cortisol (stress hormones) decreased only for the massage therapy group. Both groups reported less neck, shoulder, and back pain after the treatment sessions and reduced back pain across the study. However, only the massage therapy group showed increased range of motion across the study, including neck extension and shoulder abduction.

EEG

Field, T., Ironson, G., Scafidi, F., Nawrocki, T., Gonclaves, A., Burman, I., Pickens, J., Fox, N., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (1996). Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. International Journal of Neuroscience, 86, 197-205.

METHOD: Twenty-six adults were given a chair massage and 24 control group adults were asked to relax in the massage chair for 15 minutes, two times per week for five weeks. On the first and last days of the study they were monitored for EEG before, during and after the sessions. In addition, before and after the sessions they performed math computations, they completed POMS Depression and State Anxiety Scales and they provided a saliva sample for cortisol. At the beginning of the sessions they completed Life Events, Job Stress and Chronic POMS Depression Scales.
RESULTS: The results were as follows: 1) frontal delta power increased for both groups, suggesting relaxation; 2) the massage group showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power (suggesting enhanced alertness); while the control group showed increased alpha and beta power; 3) the massage group showed increased speed and accuracy on math computations while the control group did not change; 4) anxiety levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions, although mood state was less depressed following both the massage and control sessions; 5) salivary cortisol levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions but only on the first day; and 6) at the end of the 5 week period depression scores were lower for both groups but job stress scores were lower only for the massage group.

Hypertension

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., Theakston, H., Hossain, Z., & Burman, I. (2000). High blood pressure and associated symptoms were reduced by massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 4, 31-38.

METHOD: High blood pressure is associated with elevated anxiety, stress and stress hormones, hostility, depression and catecholamines. Massage therapy and progressive muscle relaxation were evaluated as treatments for reducing blood pressure and associated symptoms. Adults who had been diagnosed as hypertensive received ten 30-minute massage sessions over five weeks or they were given progressive muscle relaxation instructions (control group).
RESULTS: Sitting diastolic blood pressure decreased after the first and last massage therapy sessions and reclining diastolic blood pressure decreased from the first to the last day of the study. Although both groups reported less anxiety, only the massage therapy group reported less depression and hostility and showed decreased urinary and salivary hormone levels (cortisol). Massage therapy may be effective in reducing diastolic blood pressure and symptoms associated with hypertension.

Immunology

Ironson, G., Field, T., Scafidi, F., Hashimoto, M., Kumar, M., Kumar, A., Price, A., Goncalves, A., Burman, I., Tetenman, C., Patarca, R., and Fletcher, M. A. (1996). Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity. International Journal of Neuroscience, 84, 205-217.

METHOD: Twenty-nine gay men (20 HIV+, 9 HIV-) received daily massages for one month. A subset of 11 of the HIV+ subjects served as a within subject control group (one month with and without massages).
RESULTS: Major immune findings for the effects of the month of massage included a significant increase in Natural Killer Cell number, Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity, soluble CD8, and the cytotoxic subset of CD8 cells. There were no changes in HIV disease progression markers (CD4, CD4/CD8 ratio, Beta-2 microglobulin, neopterin). Major neuroendocrine findings, measured via 24 hour urines included a significant decrease in cortisol, and nonsignificant trends toward decrease of catecholamines. There were also significant decreases in anxiety and increases in relaxation which were significantly correlated with increases in NK cell number. Thus, there appears to be an increase in cytotoxic capacity associated with massage. Implications for HIV+ men as those with other illnesses, particularly cancer, are discussed.

Job Stress

Field, T., Ironson, G., Scafidi, F., Nawrocki, T., Goncalves, A., Burman, I., Pickens, J., Fox, N., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (1996). Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. International Journal of Neuroscience, 86, 197-205.

METHOD: Twenty-six adults were given a chair massage and 24 control group adults were asked to relax in the massage chair for 15 minutes, two times per week for five weeks. On the first and last days of the study they were monitored for EEG before, during and after the sessions. In addition, before and after the sessions they performed math computations, they completed POMS Depression and State Anxiety Scales and they provided a saliva sample for cortisol. At the beginning of the sessions they completed Life Events, Job Stress and Chronic POMS Depression Scales.
RESULTS: Analyses revealed the following: 1) frontal delta power increased for both groups, suggesting relaxation; 2) the massage group showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power (suggesting enhanced alertness), while the control group showed increased alpha and beta power; 3) the massage group showed increased speed and accuracy on math computations while the control group did not change; 4) anxiety levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions, although mood state was less depressed following both the massage and control sessions; 5) salivary cortisol levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions but only on the first day; and 6) at the end of the 5 week period depression scores were lower for both groups but the job stress score was lower only for the massage group.

Cady, S. H., & Jones, G. E. (1997). Massage therapy as a workplace intervention for reduction of stress. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 84, 157-158.

METHOD: The effectiveness of a 15-min. on-site massage while seated in a chair was evaluated for reducing stress as indicated by blood pressure. 52 employed participants’ blood pressures were measured before and after a 15-min. massage at work.
RESULTS: Analyses showed a significant reduction in participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure after receiving the massage.

Field, T., Quintino, O., Henteleff, T., Wells-Keife, L., & Delvecchio-Feinberg, G. (1997). Job stress reduction therapies. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 3, 54-56.

METHOD: The immediate effects of brief massage therapy, music relaxation with visual imagery, muscle relaxation, and social support group sessions were assessed in 100 hospital employees at a major public hospital.
RESULTS: Each of the groups reported decreases in anxiety, depression, fatigue, and confusion, as well as increased vigor following the sessions. That the groups did not differ on these variables suggests that these particular therapies, when applied for short periods of time, are equally effective for reducing stress among hospital employees.