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Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia Latest Research

There is a growing body of research supporting the benefits of massage therapy. A sample of the research available is provided below.

Low Back Pain

Review of the evidence for the effectiveness, safety, and cost of acupuncture, massage therapy & spinal manipulation for back pain

The study showed that massage therapy was more effective and also more costeffective in the treatment of low back pain, than acupuncture or spinal manipulation. (Daniel C. Cherkin et al, Annals of Internal Medicine 2003, 138:898-906.)

Massage for low-back pain

New, high quality trials show that massage gives some relief from back pain that has continued for many weeks or months - and the benefit may continue at least a year after the course of massage is over. Massage was more likely to work when combined with exercises (usually stretching) and education. There is a trend showing that the greatest benefit came with massage from an experienced licenced massage therapists. (Furlan AD, Brosseau, Imamura M, Irvin E., The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006 Issue 1, Copyright © 2006 The Cochrane Collaboration)


Meaningful relief from cancer by massage therapy

Eight female cancer patients were given massage for 10 consecutive days and then interviewed using phenomenology as a theoretical framework. The massage contributed to the development of a positive relationship with the patients, to feeling strong, and to a balance between autonomy and dependence. The findings of this study can be of use to health care professionals as it shows that the relatively short period of massage can result in physical and emotional benefits for cancer patients (Billhult A, Dahlberg K, Cancer Nurs. 2001 Jun;24(3):180-4.)

Safety and efficacy of massage therapy for patients with cancer

Conventional care for patients with cancer can safely incorporate massage therapy, although cancer patients may be at higher risk of rare adverse events. The strongest evidence for benefits of massage is for stress and anxiety reduction, although research for pain control and management of other symptoms common to patients with cancer, including pain, is promising. The oncologist should feel comfortable discussing massage therapy with patients and be able to refer patients to a qualified massage therapist as appropriate. (Corbin L, J Psychosom Res 2004 Jul;57(1):45-52)


Fibromyalgia pain decrease while sleep improves after massage therapy

Massage therapy has been observed to be helpful in some patients with fibromyalgia. This study was designed to examine the effects of massage therapy versus relaxation therapy on sleep, substance P, and pain in fibromyalgia patients. Across the course of the study, only the massage therapy group reported an increase in the number of sleep hours and a decrease in their sleep movements. In addition, substance P levels decreased, and the patients’ physicians assigned lower disease and pain ratings and rated fewer tender points in the massage therapy group. (Field T., et al, Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. 8(2):72-76, April 2002.)

Physical therapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia

Massage may reduce muscle tension and may be prescribed as an adjunct with other therapeutic interventions. Accordingly a multidisciplinary approach combining these therapies in a well-balanced program may be the most promising strategy and is currently recommended in the treatment of fibromyalgia. (Offenbacher M., Stucki G., Scand J Rheumatol Suppl. 2000;113:78-85.)


Massage therapy and frequency of chronic tension headaches

The effect of massage therapy on chronic non-migraine headache showed the musclespecific massage therapy technique used in this study has the potential to be a functional, non-pharmaceutical drug intervention for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headache. (C Quinn, et al., A. AmJ Public Health. 2000 Oct,92(10):1657-61)

Appraisal of treatment of the trigger points associated with chronic headaches. Relationship with anxiety and stress adaptation strategies

Treatment by relaxation allows for a perceived increase in control of symptoms by the sufferer. Consequently, it reduces anxiety, improves the quality of life and the behavioral responses to stress. In turn, the treatment improves the long-term prognosis for the headaches as well as the health of the sufferer in general. (Goffaux-Dogniez C, et al., Encephale. 2003 Sep-Oct;29(5):377-90)


Effectiveness of Manual Physical Therapy and Exercise in Osteoarthritis of the Knee

The results of this study indicate that a home exercise program for patients with OA of the knee provides important benefit. Adding a small number of additional clinical visits for the application of manual therapy and supervised exercise adds greater symptomatic relief. (Deyle GD, Henderson NE, Matekel RL, Ryder MG, Garber MB, Allison SC. Annals of Internal Medicine 2000; 132(3):173-181)

Physical Exercise and the prevention of disability in activity of daily living in older persons with osteoarthritis

Aerobic and resistance exercise may reduce the incidence of Activites of Daily Living (ADL) disability in older persons with knee osteoarthritis. Exercise may be an effective strategy for preventing ADL disability and, consequently, may prolong older persons’ autonomy. (Penninix B. Wea. Archives of Internal Medicine 2001;(161):2309-2316)


Pregnant women benefit from massage therapy

Twenty-six pregnant women were assigned to a massage therapy or a relaxation therapy group for 5 weeks. Only the massage therapy group reported reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain by the last day of the study. In addition, urinary stress hormone levels decreased for the massage therapy group with fewer complications during labour and their infants had fewer postnatal complications. (Field T, et al., J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1999 Mar;20(1):31-8)

Massage therapy effects on pregnant women with depression

Eighty-four pregnant women with depression were recruited during the second trimester of pregnancy and randomly assigned to a massage therapy group, a progressive muscle relaxation group or a control group that received standard prenatal care alone. Immediately after the massage therapy sessions on the first and last days of the 16-week period the women reported lower levels of anxiety and depressed mood and less leg and back pain. The data suggest that depressed pregnant women and their offspring can benefit from massage therapy. (Field T, Diego MA, et. al., J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2004 Jun;25(2):115-22.)

Stress Release

Stress hormone is reduced by massage therapy

In this article the positive effects of massage therapy on biochemistry are reviewed including decreased levels of cortisol and increased levels of serotonin and dopamine. Research reviewed included studies on depression (including sex abuse and eating disorder studies), pain syndrome studies, research on auto-immune conditions (including asthma and chronic fatigue), immune studies (including HIV and breast cancer), and studies on the reduction of stress on the job, the stress of aging, and pregnancy stress. (Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schuanberg S, Kuhn C. Int. J Neurosci. Oct:115(10):1397-413).

Less pain, depression, anxiety and improved sleep with reduced lower back pain and range of motion

The massage therapy group, as compared to the relaxation group, suffering from low back pain, 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. (Hernandez-Reif M, Field T, Krasnegor J, Theakston
H. Int. J Neurosci 2001: 106(3-4):131-45).


The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention

Post-exercise massage has been shown to reduce the severity of muscle soreness but massage has no effects on muscle functional loss. The majority of research on psychological effects of massage has concluded that massage produces positive effects on recovery (psychological mechanisms). (Weerapong P., Hume PA., Kolt GS., Sports Med. 2005;35(3):235-56).

The effects of athletic massage on delayed onset muscle soreness, creatine kinase, and neutrophil count: a preliminary report

Two hours after exercise, massage subjects received a 30-minute athletic massage; control subjects rested. Delayed onset muscle soreness and CK were assessed before exercise and after exercise. The results of this study suggest that sports massage will reduce DOMS when administered 2 hours after the termination of exercise. (Smith LL, et al, J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1994 Feb;19(2):93-9.)


Patterns and perceptions of care for treatment of back and neck pain: results of a national survey

Chiropractic, massage, relaxation techniques, and other complementary methods all play an important role in the care of patients with back or neck pain. Treatment for back and neck pain was responsible for a large proportion of all complementary provider visits made in 1997. The frequent use and perceived helpfulness of commonly used complementary methods for these conditions warrant further investigation. (Wolsko PM., et al, Spine. 2003 Feb 1;28(3):292-7; discussion 298.)

Treatment of whiplash-associated disorders: Non-invasive interventions

Spinal joint mobilization techniques are recommended for the treatment of pain and compromised cervical range of motion in the acute Whiplash Associated Disorders patient. (Conlin A, Bhogal S, Sequeira K, Teasell R, Pain Res Manag 2005 Spring: 10(1):21-32.)

Cascade Quarterly News Archives Winter 2007 -
Volume 1, Issue 4

Feature Article: Research Report


Office located in Vernon, BC, Canada. Serving Vernon, Coldstream,
Lavington, Armstrong, Lumby, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Chase,
Falkland, Kelowna and the rest of the Okanagan.