If you ever had a massage before. You might be familiar with its therapeutic effects on stress and muscular pain. But that’s not all a massage is capable of!
In this article, I’m going to share the most extensive list of massage benefits. The next time you feel like having an appointment with your doctor. A short massage session might save you the visit.
Some of these studies are small and are not replicated. This means that one study doesn’t prove anything, but provides a proper direction to future research. The only reason I have included these studies in the article is to make it the best resource of massage benefits on the Internet.
It’s going to be a long one. So getting a cup of coffee won’t be a bad idea before you scroll down.
Health Benefits of a Massage
1. Fights Insomnia
Insomnia is one of the worst sleeping disorders that can be caused by stress. It doesn’t only ruins your appearance with dark circles under your eyes but also affects your mood, memory, and productivity. A pilot study at the University of Alberta states that the Japanese Shiatsu (Finger Pressure) massage is an effective solution for people suffering from insomnia. Another study that was approved by the Federal University of South Paulo indicates that postmenopausal women suffering from insomnia fell asleep more rapidly and easily after regular massage sessions.
2: Improves Blood Circulation
Improved blood circulation doesn’t only make you feel healthy, but makes your skin look healthy too. It also promotes cell growth and your skin’s ability to fight bacteria. A study at the Illinois University of Chicago indicated that massage is effective in increasing blood circulation and alleviating muscle soreness.
3. Eliminates Back Pain
Back pain is a painful and really common condition that affects the lower part of the spine. The United States alone deals with over 30 Million back pain patients a year. A study objected to comparing 2 different massage styles for back pain relief found that massage therapy is an effective solution for back pain. And that the relieving effects of massage can last as long as 6 months.
4. Reduces Pain of Osteoarthritis of Knee
Research at (NCCAM) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that massage can reduce pain in patients with knee Osteoarthritis. 125 patients were enrolled in the study, 25 of which received 60-minute massage sessions for 8 weeks, while others were treated with usual care. Significant relief in pain was observed in subjects treated with massage therapy.
5. Relaxes Sore Muscles
A study in 2012 found that massage is capable of relieving muscles from inflammation and muscle soreness. The researchers assigned 11 men short sessions of intense exercise. A kind of exercise that would usually result in stiff and sore muscles for a few days afterward.
All exercisers were treated with a 10-minute massage on one leg and the other leg was simply given rest. After comparing the muscles from both the legs before and after exercise the researchers found that massage triggered some genes capable of alleviating inflammation and muscle soreness.
6. Migraine Headaches
10 male patients with acute migraine headaches were enrolled in a study to test the effects of massage as a solution to the condition. The researchers used the neck and upper thoracic massage as an intervention in the study. The results came out as reduced levels of headache pain intensity up to 69% with no side effects observed.
7. Improves Immunity
Our Immune system is the first line of defense our body has to fight diseases and bacteria. Having a strong immune system confirms better health. Some studies had reported in the past that massage could improve immunity. However, no solid proof was provided until this study took place.
The study enrolled sixty-six cancer patients divided into two groups. One was treated with 3 massage sessions a week and the other was given standard. care. The post-study results were reported as 11% increased levels of lymphocyte in the massage group which is a cell that is believed to have a positive effect on the immune system.
8. Increases Muscle Flexibility
It’s been widely believed by athletes and health professionals that massage is an effective way to increase Range Of Motion (ROM). Which was further strengthened by this study. Seven male and ten female volunteers were treated with hamstring roller massage. The results indicated that the use of a roller-massager increased the ROM by 4.3%.
9. Controls Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
This weird-sounding condition is a disorder that causes widespread chronic muscular pain, fatigue, and tenderness. There is no authentic research on what causes Fibromyalgia. But it is believed that stress and Insomnia might provoke it. However, there has been some research on what can cure symptoms of Fibromylagia. A pilot study objected to evaluate the effects of massage therapy on Fibromyalgia concluded its findings declaring massage as an effective treatment to control the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
10. Reduces Aggression in Preschool Kids
A study enrolled children who showed extra aggression in daycare and treated the subjects with massage therapy to see how it affects their condition. The Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) was used to rate the aggression of children by daycare staff and parents after 3, 6, and 12 months.
Both the children in the massage and control group (treated with extra attention) showed decreased scores of aggression. But the aggression score notably kept on decreasing and lasted only in the massage group after 6 and 12 months.
11. Lowers Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
Hypertensive women were enrolled in a study objected to figure out the effects of Swedish Massage on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate. From the two groups, one was treated with Swedish massage an hour, weekly for four weeks and the other was given rest an hour weekly for the same duration. The study concluded that both the groups showed significantly low levels of heart rate and blood pressure; however, the effect on blood pressure lasted long in the massage group.
12. Boosts Mood
According to this study, aromatherapy massage is an effective way to enhance mood and eliminate stress. 8 adults enrolled in this study were treated with aromatherapy massage weekly for 6 weeks. Improvements in mood were noticed in 6 out of 8 patients.
13. Controls Symptoms of Depression
Massage is widely believed to be effective in easing the symptoms of depression. 32 healthy women were enrolled in a study in which they were treated with a facial massage to figure out its effects on depression, mood, and nervous system. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was used to evaluate the psychological effects of massage. It was concluded that massage intervention can reduce depression and also can activate the sympathetic nervous system.
14. Increases Red Blood Cells
Red blood cells are important as they remove excess carbon dioxide from our body by transporting it to the lungs. These cells are produced in the bone marrow. According to the studies made in the mid-1900s, massage can facilitate the growth of red blood cells especially in people with anemia.
15. Cures Cancer-Related Fatigue
Massage is used widely in medical centers worldwide as a tool to cure fatigue. Many studies have been made to figure out the effects of massage on fatigue caused by different medical conditions. Cancer-related fatigue is one of the worst symptoms that cancer patients suffer. It is often described as “Paralyzing”. Because it can not be relieved by rest or sleep. A study on chemotherapy-related fatigue found that back-massage can effectively alleviate acute fatigue and anxiety in cancer patients. The study was conducted with 40 chemotherapy patients. Each of them showed significantly reduced levels of fatigue the next day of chemotherapy.
16. Calms the nervous system
A large number of 139 volunteers contributed to a study to find the effects of heat and massage on the nervous system. The study procedure included a daily 40-minute massage dose, 5 days a week for 2 weeks. The researchers found that daily massage contributed to calming the nervous systems of the subjects.
17. Controls Asthma
This is one of the most welcomed researches on massage benefits. Research that studied the effects of massage on children with asthma hypothesized that massage can play a vital role in controlling conditions caused by asthma. The study enrolled 44 asthmatic children divided into two groups; one received massage therapy and the other was treated with standard care. The children in the massage group received a 20-minute massage at bedtime every day for a month. The results indicated that a continuous massage treatment could help better airway tonicity and reduce airway sensitivity in asthmatic children.
18. Reduces Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain
More than 70 million people in the U.S are affected by chronic pain. Along with other treatments massage is also considered a cure for the condition. Different studies have been performed about the effects of massage on chronic pain caused by different conditions. This pilot study conducted on 30 chronic Musculoskeletal pain patients concluded its findings declaring massage therapy a useful treatment for reduction in chronic musculoskeletal pain intensity.
19. Heals Exhausted Muscles and Inflammation
11 men were enrolled in a research led by McMaster University scientists. All the subjects were assigned an exhausting stationary bike exercise. The researchers analyzed their biopsies before the exercise, immediately after 10 minutes of exercise, and lastly after 2.5 hours of exercise. The subjects’ thigh muscles suffered from inflammation, but a 10 minutes massage not only lightened inflammation but also produced new mitochondria molecules which heal exercise-related muscle damage.
20. Reduces Constipation
Constipation needs to be avoided as it can give birth to other disorders. Sometimes it may be a symptom of diabetes or IBS. A study held on elderly people suffering from constipation was treated with an abdominal aromatherapy massage. In conclusion, massage was said to have played an important role in reducing the severity of constipation. And that the results of aromatherapy massage lasted for two weeks.
21. Controls Blood Glucose Level
A study was held on 2 groups of diabetic children recruited from a hospital in Iran. The children were randomly assigned to control and intervention groups. The children in the intervention group were treated with Swedish massage for 15 minutes 3 times a week. Blood Glucose levels were tested in both groups immediately after the massage. After comparing the results from both the groups. The blood glucose level of the subjects in the massage group was decreased significantly.
22. Reduces Chemotherapy-induced Nausea
Nausea is one of the many side effects that patients undergoing chemotherapy face. Though, the healing effects of massage on nausea in a healthy person are uncertain. There are studies available that prove that massage can help recover from chemotherapy-related nausea.
In this study, 77 patients undergoing chemotherapy were divided into two groups (intervention and control). The intervention group was treated with Swedish massage 24 hours before and after the chemotherapy. The effects of Nausea and vomiting were reduced notably in the intervention group. Furthermore, the study suggested including massage as a regular treatment to deal with chemotherapy-related nausea.
23. Reduces Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease is a central nervous system disorder that affects the movement of the victim. Though massage is not claimed to be a complement treatment for this condition, studies have found that massage trials were successful in reducing some of its symptoms. In a 2002 study, patients undergoing Parkinson’s disease were divided into two groups (massage and relaxation).
Both the groups received their respective therapies twice a week for five weeks. While both the groups showed improvements, they lasted long in the massage group. The patients showed improvements in conducting daily activities, falling asleep, and less stress. While another study in 2005 suggested that one-hour full body massage sessions may help regain the walking abilities, self-confidence, and well-being in patients.
24. Reduces Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a mystery disease in which the nervous system attacks on the protecting layers of nerves causing them damage. There has been no cure found yet, but treatments have been developed to speed up the rehabilitation process after damage and to control the symptoms. A pilot study was conducted to compare the effects of massage and exercise on the symptoms of MS. A total of 44 patients were randomly assigned to four groups; massage therapy, exercise therapy, massage exercise therapy, and control group.
The massage group was treated with standard Swedish massage for five weeks. While other groups were provided with their respective treatments for the same duration. The massage therapy resulted in significant pain reduction, improved dynamic balance, and walking speed compared with the exercise and control group. Though, the patients in the massage exercise group showed much larger improvements in the same areas.
25. Reduces Abdominal Obesity
Aromatherapy massage was put into test in a pilot study on middle-aged women with abdominal obesity. The participants were treated with Aromatherapy and Placebo massage (each for two weeks). After analyzing the appetite, abdominal circumference, and weight of the participants before and after the massage. The study concluded its results declaring massage to be highly effective in reducing abdominal obesity in middle-aged women.
26. Improves Social Bonding
A hormone known as Oxytocin (OT) is known to be responsible for better cooperative attitudes and social bonds in humans. A study that objected to finding the effects of massage on OT and other physiologic factors was held at the University of California (UCLA). A total of 95 participants were randomly divided into control and intervention groups. The intervention group that was treated with moderate-pressure massage showed a greater increase in OT and other factors like ACTH, NO, and BE as compared to the control group.<
27. Prevents Perineal Trauma at birth
Perineal massage is believed to reduce the incidence of perineal trauma following vaginal birth. In this study, women were treated with perineal massage in the last 4 weeks of their pregnancy. The study results indicated that massage therapy lessens the likelihood of perineal trauma requiring suturing. Moreover, the participants reported relief in ongoing perineal pain.
28. Can stop Intractable Hiccups
Did you know massage could help you stop intractable hiccups? Well, this is just what this study found. A 60-year-old man who was suffering from acute Pancreatitis developed intractable hiccups. Different drugs and maneuvers were used to stop the disorder, but the doctors had no success. Later, they treated the old man with rectal massage and the hiccups startlingly came to an end. Though, a few hours later the hiccups recurred one last time and were ended immediately after another session of rectal massage.
29. Weight Gain in Preterm Infants
5 days of massage therapy was designed for preterm infants to see how the intervention affects the weight and sleeping behaviors of neonates. 16 neonates were treated with 15-minute massage therapy 3 times a day. The infants getting a massage showed 53% greater weight gain daily after 5 days of massage therapy. Moreover, the massage group spent less time sleeping or in a drowsy state as compared to the control group.
30. Rheumatoid Arthritis
A study that compared the effects of low pressure vs moderate pressure massage on Rheumatoid Arthritis recruited 41 adults with rheumatoid arthritis in the upper limbs. The subjects were randomly assigned to low pressure and moderate pressure massage groups.
Both the groups were treated once a week with massage for 4 weeks, while a professional massage therapist taught the participants self-massage techniques to be done daily. By the end of the month, the moderate pressure massage participants had less pain, greater ROM, and grip strength in their wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
31. Reduces Severity of Pain in Labor
A total of 46 pregnant women were enrolled in experimental and control groups. The women in the experimental group received an intervention of 15-minute lumbar massage by a physiotherapist during the ongoing phase of labor. A physiotherapist also attended the women in the control group for the same duration, but only answered questions. At the end of the massage session, the pain severity was decreased by a mean difference of 20 mm compared to the women in the control group.
32. Improves Neonatal Jaundice in New-born Infants
Neonatal Jaundice is one of the most common conditions in preterm newborn babies. In this condition, the coloration of the skin turns yellowish which happens due to increased levels of bilirubin in the blood. In a controlled clinical trial, 20 newborns were enrolled in the massage group and 22 in the control group. Transcutaneous and serum bilirubin levels were analyzed prior to the intervention.
A reduction in Transcutaneous bilirubin was noted on the second day of massage therapy, while serum bilirubin level reduced significantly on the fourth day compared to the control group. Conclusively, suggesting massage therapy to be helpful in reducing Neonatal Jaundice in newborn infants.
33. Ameliorates Chronic Neck Pain and Dysfunction
While the healing effects of massage on chronic neck pain and dysfunction are acknowledged by previous studies. A clinical trial was made to identify the optimal dose of massage for neck-related pain and dysfunction in frequency and duration.
228 patients with nonspecific neck pain were randomly assigned to 5 groups. All of which were provided massage therapy for different durations and frequencies. The results yet again suggested the message to be effective in reducing chronic neck pain neck dysfunction. And the optimal dose of massage was found to be 60-minute massage sessions multiple times as that group showed the most improvements.
34. Controls Symptoms of Malignant Ascites
Malignant Ascites are a condition referred to as the fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity. The belief that abdominal massage can reduce the symptoms of Malignant ascites was tested in a study that recruited 80 patients undergoing malignant ascites and randomly assigned them to the intervention and control groups.
The intervention group was treated with a 15-minute gentle abdominal massage twice a day for 3 days. While the control group received 15-minute social interaction with a nurse twice daily for 3 days. The intervention group showed significant improvements in symptoms like depression, anxiety, poor well-being, and abdominal bloating. Though, no positive effects were noticed on other symptoms like pain, tiredness, nausea, drowsiness, and body weight.
35. Can Improve Dyspnoea
Dyspnoea or labored breathing can be triggered as a symptom of diseases like asthma, heart attack, and chronic pulmonary disease. A study in Taipei recruited patients diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease undergoing Dyspnoea and treated them with acupressure massage to accumulate its effects. A total of 44 patients were assigned to true acupressure or a sham group.
Patients in both the acupressure programs received 16-minute massage sessions five times a week lasting for more than 4 weeks. After analyzing the pre-study and post-study results, the researchers found that the true acupressure program appreciably improved Dyspnoea in Patients with Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Furthermore, improvements in pulmonary function, 6-minute walking distance, anxiety, and physiological indications were noticed.
36. Reliefs Chronic Postoperative Pain
Effective adjuvant therapies are needed to relieve postoperative pain among patients that go through major operations. The effects of massage therapy as an adjuvant treatment were tested in a randomized control trial. The researchers enrolled six hundred five veterans that underwent major operations and were suffering from acute postoperative pain and pain unpleasantness.
The subjects were randomly assigned to a control group and 2 massage groups. The massage groups as compared to the control group showed a better short-term reduction in pain intensity, unpleasantness, and anxiety. Moreover, the results were achieved much faster in the massage groups as compared to the control group. Though, no significant differences were noticed in rates of decrease in long-term pain intensity, unpleasantness, or anxiety in all 3 groups.
37. Alleviates Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS is a very common condition that mostly triggers in the evenings and causes legs extreme discomfort. A 35-year-old woman with Restless Legs Syndrome was treated with 40-minute massage sessions twice a week targeting the piriformis and hamstring muscles with a gap of 2 days. The results came out as reduced symptoms of RLS only after two massage sessions including the urgency to move the legs, tingling sensation, and sleeplessness which continued to improve throughout the intervention.
38. Reduces Severity of Essential Tremor
A study made on 63-year-old women whose head and hands were affected with essential tremor (ET) was treated with relaxation-based massage therapies for five sessions a week. The tremor intensity was decreased with every session. And the study concluded its findings declaring massage therapy a valuable method to treat ET.
39. Improves Symptoms of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH is an age-associated prostate gland dysfunction in men. Which causes urinary difficulties and in some cases sexual dysfunction. In this study, 44 men with BPH were subjected to a medical abdominal massage to see if massage therapy is helpful in reducing the severity of symptoms.
The LQ accessing the quality of life tools and I-PASS symptoms score were used to determine the efficacy of the method. Improvements were noticed in all subjects. After the intervention, the I-PSS and LQ scores were improved by 50% and 41%. While the urinary problems also decreased and many of the subjects desired to continue receiving the intervention in the future.
40. Reduces Symptoms of TMJ
Chewing pain, restricted jaw opening, and jaw clicking are common symptoms of Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome or TMJ. A study that objected to testing the effects of massage on the symptoms of TMJ used Western massage techniques on a subject that was undergoing masticatory pain, clicking, and reduced jaw opening for 3 years. The massage intervention lasted for 3 weeks in which 30-min massage sessions were applied twice a week on the subject. The results indicated that massage sessions decreased TMJ-related pain, increased jaw opening by almost a third. And reduced jaw clicking from 4 times to once monthly. Although, teeth grinding remained unchanged in the subject.
41. Relieves Symptoms of CPS
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CPS) is referred to the numbness and tingling sensation in the hands which is triggered by pinched nerves in the wrists. In a research, 16 adults suffering from CPS were randomly assigned to control and massage groups. The participants of the massage group were given a daily self-massage routine, and a massage therapist also massaged them once a week.
The massage intervention was based on a duration of 4 weeks. The results showed that a daily dose of massage can relieve the symptoms of CPS. The participants in the intervention group showed improved grip strength, mood, pain severity, and anxiety.
42. Reduces Menstrual Pain
52 nurses were included in a clinical trial who reported their menstrual pain 5 on a scale of 10. The subjects were randomly assigned to placebo, experiment, and a no-treatment control group. The subjects in the experiment group treated themselves with a self-aromatherapy massage. After comparing the results of subjects in each group. The results suggested that aromatherapy massage was most effective in decreasing the severity of menstrual pain after 24 hours as compared to other groups.
43. Improves Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a chronic condition in which the subjects were suffering from absent-mindedness, difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. In a study, 28 adolescents going through the condition were randomly assigned to either relaxation therapy or massage therapy. The participants in the massage group rated themselves happier as compared to the relaxation group after consecutive 10 days of school. The teachers reported fewer hyperactivity scores and reported the participants to be spending more time on tasks based on classroom behavior after two weeks
44. Reduces Shoulder Pain
A study conducted to test the effects of soft tissue massage on pain and range of motion in patients with shoulder pain recruited 26 patients that were randomly divided into a treatment group that received a total of six soft tissue massage sessions around the neck or to a control group. After analyzing the pre-study and post-study results, the researchers found that the treatment group showed notably more improvements in range of motion and pain reduction as compared to the control group.
45. Improves Hypertrophic scars
Massage is also believed to have healing effects on burn scars. The efficacy of burn rehabilitation massage was tested in a study that recruited 146 patients with hypertrophic scars. 76 of which were randomly assigned to massage group and were treated with scar rehabilitation massage in addition to standard care. The participants in the massage group showed a notable decrease in scar thickness, skin redness, itchiness, melanin, and skin distention as compared to the control group. The results indicated that burn rehabilitation massage is an effective method to improve scar characteristics in hypertrophic scars after-burn.
46. Controls Agitation
In this study, cognitively impaired residents of a nursing home were treated with massage therapy to assess its effect on agitation. The study declared its results after analyzing 5 characteristics of agitation: Verbal Agitation/abusive, Wandering, Socially Inappropriate/Disruptive, Physical Agitation and Resists care.
Agitation was noticed low in the subjects during the intervention and remained the same at follow-up. Significant improvements were shown in 4 characteristics: Wandering, Verbal Agitation, Physical Agitation, and Resists Care. These results suggested massage be an effective nonpharmacological intervention to control some types of agitation in patients with cognitive impairment.
47. Reduces Pain in Arthroscopic Knee patients
A total of 60 patients undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery were included in a study that assessed the effects of massage on pain severity. Patients were randomly divided into intervention and control groups. Pain severity was recorded before and after the intervention. The participants in the intervention group were treated with 20-minute massage sessions each day besides the routine treatment. A notable difference in pain severity was noticed in the intervention group before and after the massage therapy. While the participants of the control group showed no difference in pre-study and post-study results.
48. Reduces Fall in Elderly
More than 30% of people over 65 years of age who fall annually get fractures with decreased Independence. And it also is one of the common causes of death in older people. Falls in the elderly can be prevented by improved postural stability and overall strength. In a study, 35 healthy old volunteers were treated with a 60-minute full-body massage intervention while the control group rested quietly in the treatment room.
The effects on stability were measured by Static (doubled-legged) and functional (single-legged) postures with eyes-open and eyes-closed. After analyzing the pre-study and post-study results the conclusion was made that massage intervention increased stability in both static and functional postures in older people decreasing the chances of falls in the elderly.
49. Reduces Menopausal Symptoms
90 women with menopause were recruited in a clinical controlled trial in a hospital in Tehran. Menopausal have different symptoms that can disturb different aspects of life, but this trial was focused on pain management. The subjects were divided into aromatherapy, control, and a placebo massage group. The women in the aromatherapy group were treated with a 30-minute aromatherapy massage with aroma oil twice a week for 4 weeks.
While the placebo group was given massage sessions with plain oil and the control group received no treatment. The baseline scores of menopausal score did not differ in all 3 groups. However, a notable decrease in menopause score was noticed after 8 massage interventions. After comparing the results from the aromatherapy and placebo groups, the menopause score of the aromatherapy group was lower by a big difference. Whereas, the control group showed no improvements.
50. Improves Mother-infant Interaction
Postnatal depression or Depression after childbirth in mothers can make the mother-infant relation suffer for a long time. One of the studies on the effects of massage on depression and improving the quality of mother-infant relation recruited thirty-four depressed mothers in the study.
The results on depression and quality of interaction between infant and mother were assessed by Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) score and videotaped mother-infant interaction. Participants were randomly assigned to the treatment group (massage + support) and control group ( given support only). The depression score (EPDS) fell low in both groups. But improvements in mother-infant interaction were only noticed in the treatment group.
51. Proven Solution for Tension Headaches
Studies have shown that massage can have relieving effects on tension headaches. The conclusions made in this study suggest that massage therapy can relieve the distress caused by tension headaches. The participants enrolled were treated with a 45-minute massage session twice a week. The psychological improvements in subjects were noted by (STAI), (BDI-II), and (PSS). The intervention resulted in a reduction of frequency, intensity, and duration of tension headaches.
Phew! That took more research than I expected.
So, these were some of the benefits massages can bring to your health.
Researches are still assessing the effects of massage on different medical conditions. And it’s obvious that there is a lot to be discovered in the future.