A simple massage could keep you from getting sick

Dr. Mark Rapaport and his team of researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., evaluated 53 people, 29 of which received 45-minute Swedish massages–one of the most common forms of massage used in the U.S.–and 24 who received gentler, light touch massages. Researchers took blood samples at intervals before and after the massages and found that those who received even just one Swedish massage experienced significant, positive changes in blood composition.

“This research indicates that massage doesn’t only feel good, it also may be good for you,” explained Dr. Rapaport in a press release. “People often seek out massage as part of a healthy lifestyle but there hasn’t been much physiological proof of the body’s heightened immune response following massage until now.”

Besides experiencing a significant increase in lymphocytes, the white cells in the body that help fight and prevent disease, the Swedish massage group experienced lower cortisol levels as well. Cortisol is the hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress.

The Swedish massage group also experienced a decrease in arginine vasopressin, a hormone linked with aggressive behavior.

“European-style massage is often used to treat back pain, sleep disorders, and other stress-related disorders” explain Bradley J. Willcox, D. Craig Willcox and Makoto Suzuki in their book The Okinawa Program: How the World’s Longest-Lived People Achieve Everlasting Health.

Massage therapy in Brighton has many benefits

Tense muscles can cause the body to lose its natural balance. This can lead to pain as other muscles in the body tense to try to compensate for those which are causing the initial pain. It soon becomes a chain reaction, which causes the problem to spread, often quite far from the initial problem area. Experienced massage therapists will be able to locate the source of the problem and thus begin the healing process. This in turn may be able to assist a person with eliminating a dependence on pain medication.

Massage therapy assists with releasing endorphins into the body, which can help with pain relief. It is able to lessen depression and anxiety while improving the condition of the skin, which is the largest organ of the body. Those suffering from lower back pain are able to experience relief as well as a greater range of motion after a massage treatment.

Massage has also been shown to assist with other conditions such as blood pressure control, immune system boosting, infant growth and sports-related injuries. Research has also shown that massage can be beneficial to autistic children, who seemed to display less erratic behaviour after a massage session. Office workers who make use of massage therapy tend to be more alert and display less stress than those who don`t. Patients who have undergone any form of abdominal surgery tend to heal quicker when making use of massage therapy. It also decreases itching, anxiety, pain, depression and tension in patients suffering from burns.

Premature babies also benefit from massage therapy, as research has shown that infants who receive massage therapy grow and develop faster than those who don`t. Those suffering from cancer were also reported to be less anxious after receiving massage therapy. It also increases lymph flow and stimulates weak muscles. It is also able to reduce cramps and swelling in the body.

It is important that massage therapy be done by qualified therapists. It is also not recommended for people who suffer from open wounds, fractures, severe osteoporosis or blood clots. Pregnant women should also exercise caution with regards to massage therapy.

Scalp Massages in Brighton Relax and Stimulate

What is Indian Head Massage?

Many people spend hours of each day hunched over a computer screen or sitting in the traffic, risking chronic nerve damage to their necks and shoulders. Poor posture and long working hours without adequate breaks can worsen muscle pain. A head massage usually includes a massage of the neck, back, shoulders and scalp, thus relieving pain and tension in these areas.

The people of India have incorporated head massage as part of a holistic medicine for generations.
Traditionally, an Indian head masseur would begin by balancing one’s healing energy in a step called “chakra balancing” in order to encourage positive feelings. He or she would then massage the upper back, shoulders and neck and thereafter progress to massaging the scalp and temples in a gentle, circular motion.

A head massage should take at least 45 minutes to complete. A scalp massage that is too hard can cause a headache or even more tension, so make sure your therapist knows if you want a light, medium or deep massage.

Oils for Head Massage

Traditionally, oils such as bhringaraj, brahmi, or amla oils are used for scalp massage. These oils are derived from plants and herbs that Indians have valued for their medicinal properties for thousands of years.

Coconut oil is also widely used by therapists for head massage and can be left in the hair for awhile to provide a rich conditioning treatment. Sesame oil is a commonly used for Indian head massage because of its mild odor.

Carrier oils such as jojoba or sweet almond can be blended with essential oils of choice. For example, a few drops of ylang ylang blended with a few drops of carrier oil may be used to help one unwind and relax, while peppermint oil will have a more energizing effect. Discuss oil blends with your massage therapist before starting.

Bear in mind that oils applied to the scalp can be difficult to remove from the hair. It may be necessary to wash hair two or three times with a good quality, natural shampoo in order to remove the oil completely. Wash gently, using lukewarm water. Avoid using cold or very hot water directly on oiled hair.

Drink plenty of water to flush the body of toxins after a head massage.

Massage therapy, healing touch are good medicine for the treatment and prevention of chronic disease

There are several good reasons for this, such as the fact that massage therapy helps move lymph fluid around the body and oxygenate organs and tissues. Plus, there’s probably something healthy going on in the fact that human touch is taking place. However, there is a widespread belief, especially among the leaders in Western medicine, that massage therapy can’t possibly be considered a medical treatment. Most insurance companies still refuse to pay for massage therapies, and few doctors prescribe it, although the number of doctors recommending it has been increasing over the last few years.

I believe that massage therapy is shunned by the medical community primarily because it is considered an unsophisticated treatment — you don’t need a medical degree to give someone an effective massage. There’s not a lot of equipment involved in massage therapy, it doesn’t have a lot of cool technology, and it doesn’t require years of training. And thus, it is looked upon as something that is below Western medicine, both by doctors and by many patients.

But all of this is a distortion – something doesn’t have to be complicated or cool to be effective as a healing treatment. Massage therapy gets to the fundamentals — that is, the power of human touch, and the spiritual healing potential of one person’s hands touching another person’s body along with positive healing intent. These are timeless principles of healing that don’t require technology to be effective.

Given that massage therapy and therapeutic touch are so effective in helping patients heal themselves, I find it astounding to observe the lack of physical contact between doctors and their patients in clinics and hospitals across the country. Doctors almost seem scared to touch their patients, and in fact, many doctors don’t want to be touched, either. This lack of touch keeps everything at a “safe distance” – it makes their interactions non-personal and sterile. It also allows the doctor to keep patients at a distance, where they can perceive them as patients with patient IDs rather than human beings with souls and spirits and emotions. It is this distance – this chasm between doctors and patients – that contributes to the lack of effectiveness in modern medicine.

True healers are willing to get involved with their patients in terms of understanding them, seeing the world from their perspective, and even touching them in a healing way with positive intent. That’s why our modern physicians are outstanding technicians, but terrible healers. Personally, I would much rather see a massage therapist than a physician, unless I were suffering from sort of radical, acute injury such as an accident in which case, of course, Western doctors and surgeons are the very best in the world. But when it comes to treating chronic disease and maintaining a high degree of health on a regular basis, massage therapy and healing touch offer an outstanding system of healing that I highly recommend.

Introduction to Sports Massage in Brighton

As participation in sports becomes more popular at all ages, and performances improve from year to year, more is demanded of the athlete. This can mean that performances which were seen as outstanding twenty years ago are now commonplace.

Mentally and physically, psychologically and emotionally, athletes are pushing themselves to deliver more and more, and they are looking for innovative and effective ways to improve their performances.
Regular sports massage is part of the training programme of all top sports people and its increased availability in clinics and health centres is now making it accessible for everyone.

What happens during a sports massage treatment?

A sports massage therapist will usually take a medical history to ascertain relevant information about your health past and present, about your sport in particular and about any injuries you may have incurred. Each treatment will be unique to you, the patient, your sport, your state of fitness or injury and your athletic goals.
Throughout the sessions a number of adapted tests for strength, suppleness and pain-free range of movement will be undertaken.

Treatment should be mainly ‘hands on’ using a combination of massage and exercises to strengthen and release soft tissue (muscles, fascia and tendons) and to increase range of movement in joints. Only rarely will machinery or infra- red be required.

Massage techniques used may include trigger point therapy, neuromuscular therapy, soft tissue release, acupressure and more. Remedial massage may be appropriate to treat injuries. You will feel energized and ready for action.

Pre – event massage

Sports massage is an effective way of preparing for events and caring for the athletes after the event. Effects can be psychological as well as physical. Pre-event massage is used to warm and loosen up the muscular system, and sharpen neuromuscular communication ready for action. It is also seen as a vital part of the routine psychological preparation.

Post – event massage

After the event,massage is a popular adjunct to the warming down exercise routine and can in some cases, where a warm down is not possible, replace this altogether. It has the effect of loosening and releasing muscles and increasing localised vascular and lymphatic activity to speed the removal of byproducts of athletic activity, e.g. hydrogen ions (sometimes known as ‘lactic acid’) and the waste products from increased cell metabolism.

Sports Massage after a challenging training session or after an event or a match can help to eliminate subsequent muscle soreness, particularly if administered 2 to 6 hours after the event. Psychologically it acts as a ‘closure’ to the event and gives the athlete valuable time to reflect. After a post – event sports massage you will feel physically and mentally relaxed.

Why Have Massage?

If you don’t spend your time relaxing at the beach every day, you might want to consider having regularly scheduled massage visits.

If you practice stress management techniques, why not have regular massage or bodywork? I posed this question in my last poll and here are the results:

  • 39% of the voters suggested that the reason they did not have regular massage or bodywork was because of the expense.
  • 31% said they were not comfortable with the idea of having a massage.
  • 24% suggested they had other reasons or didn’t have enough information.
  • 8% had no time.

Statistics on Stress and Stress-Related Problems

Now take a look at these statistics on stress and stress-related problems:

  • 75-90% of visits to family physicians are for stress-related problems.
  • The World Health Organization identified job-related stress as a worldwide epidemic.
  • In a 2000 annual Gallup Poll on attitudes in the American workplace, 80% of workers felt stressed on the job; nearly 50% said they needed help in managing their stress; and 42% said their coworkers needed help; 62% find that they end the day with work-related neck pain.
  • The National Safety Council estimates that 1 million American employees are absent every day from work because of stress-related problems.
  • 65% of North Americans take prescription medications daily, 43% take mood altering prescriptions regularly.
  • Alcohol is commonly used to cope with anxiety. 72% of Canadians consume alcohol each year.

Is Massage Therapy Expensive?

Many extended health care plans cover massage therapy visits.

On average, massage therapy will cost approximately $1.00 per minute of time spent, whether that is chair massage or an actual full body massage at a clinic, office or spa. That works out to about $50 for 50 minutes of relaxation.

Most of us can easily spend $50 dining out one evening, buying weekly coffee at Starbucks, or regularly consuming alcohol.

If you find that massage therapy is beyond your budget, there are other ways to get the benefits. You could always sign up for a couple’s massage or introductory acupressure or foot reflexology class and learn how to do it yourself. You could also call up a massage school and ask about their student rates.

So back to the original question of why massage?

Quite simply, massage is one of the oldest forms of healing. It is a drug-free and non-invasive way of helping to relieve pain, stress and tension. It can help you cope better with stress and has shown to be effective in helping to reduce anxiety. If stress is getting the better of you, why not try one of the 100 different massage therapy techniques available.

For those somewhat uncomfortable about having to disrobe for a massage, there are a number of massage techniques where that is not required (i.e. reflexology, shiatsu, chair massage, acupressure).

© Copyright, Sylvia Carlson 2006

Massage Therapy Benefits in Brighton and Hove

There are many positive benefits of massage in Brighton and Hove. One of the most significant massage benefits is an increase in circulation which can speed healing and enhance recovery.

Massage Therapy – Brief History of Massage Benefits

Massage is one of the most ancient forms of healing. The first writings on massage showed up around 2000 BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans used massage to maintain health and promote healing. As early as the 14th century, Guy deChauliac was noted to have written a book on surgery and bodywork was mentioned as an adjunct to surgery. During the 16th century, Ambroise Pare, a French barber surgeon, was noted to have mentioned the many benefits of massage. Also, it was Lord Francis Bacon who observed that massage enhanced circulation.During the 1850s, scientific massage therapy was introduced in the United States by two New York physicians, brothers George and Charles Taylor.

Nowadays, scientific research studies clearly show the many positive benefits of massage on our health and well-being.

Benefits of Massage

  • Relieves stress and promotes an overall feeling of relaxation, helping you breathe and move more easily
  • Alleviates pain and tension, and helps you manage pain better
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Promotes speedy recovery from injuries (work, trauma, accident or sports-related)
  • Increases mobility and provides greater joint flexibility and range of motion
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves and strengthens immune system
  • Relieves musculoskeletal problems and improves posture
  • Relieves pregnancy discomforts
  • Reduces anxiety and promotes an overall feeling of well-being
  • Increases body awareness

Massage Therapy and Health Conditions

Aside from being very effective in relieving stress, there is much scientific research that shows how massage can help with a variety of health conditions, including:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Arthritis
  • Back Pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic and acute pain
  • Circulatory problems
  • Depression
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Musculo-Skeletal Disorders
  • Pain
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Sports injuries
  • Stress
  • Tendonitis
  • Whiplash

How Massage Works

Massage therapists will use a variety of techniques to promote healing and relaxation, as well as to promote greater flexibility and range of motion. When a specific muscle group is injured or contracted, other muscles surrounding the affected area also brace in response to the injury or contraction. Massage helps to improve blood circulation, decrease pain and inflammation, helps to relax the muscles, and makes you feel better.

© Jan 12, 2007 Sylvia Carlson

What is massage therapy?

Massage Therapy in Brighton Basics by Kate Leas

Massage therapy is a manipulation of muscles, ligaments, tendons, skin, fascia, and joints in the body. It is a practice that has been around since the beginning of peopledom. In fact, ancient techniques are still employed in today’s modern world. The benefits of massage are extensive. Not only can it help alleviate pain and aid in physical maladies and day-to-day functioning, but it impacts mental and emotional wellbeing. Relaxation, awareness, anxiety, and depression can all be aided and eased with massage therapy.

Massage boosts the immune system, relaxes and reduces anxiety, alleviates pain, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, stimulates lesser used muscles, increases endorphins, aids physical rehabilitation, and improves circulation (blood and lymph).

There are many different techniques and therapies in the field of massage. Some of these may be familiar to you already, even if you do not know specifically what they entail.

Swedish: Probably the most well known technique, and for good reason; it’s quite popular.

Acupressure is like acupuncture without the needles. Specific points are targeted and pressure applied to create a therapeutic effect.

Aroma Therapy is often used in tandem with other techniques. It consists of using fragrant oils for healing benefits. These oils can be applied to the skin or simply allowed to perfume the air thus allowing those nearby to receive benefits nasally.

Canadian Deep Tissue Massage: A technique that focuses on a muscle group working with the fibers of the muscle tissue to rejuvenate each level of muscle including deep tissue.

Deep Tissue Massage works to invigorate and stimulate the muscle issue on a deep level. It involves more intense manipulation and can provide tremendous benefits on many levels.

Hot Stone Massage: Warm stones are used on the body with gentle pressure to provide a soothing, therapeutic sensation.

Infant Massage: Becoming more popular everyday, infant massage has been proven to help infants gain weight and speed development. It is taught to mothers as a way to bond with their new children.

Other techniques include Chi Nei Tsang, Reflexology, Shiatsu,Thai Massage, Amma Therapy, Alexander Technique, Aston Patterning, Bioenergetics, Bowen Technique, and Craniosacral Therapy.

Massage therapy is considered a health field and massage therapy is often covered under many health plans because of its proven healing and beneficial results.

Massage is private and safe. Depending on the type of massage you receive, partial body, full body, 30 minute or longer, you may have to undress completely or not at all. The room should be warm and comfortable and there may be light music playing. If the environment makes you uneasy, do not hesitate to inform your therapist; a massage should be a relaxing and pleasant experience. This is true if you feel pain during any part of your massage experience. Some techniques are more intensive and may be a bit uncomfortable at times, but if you feel anything that makes you uneasy, do not hesitate to speak up.

Massage therapy is a valuable service whether you are considering a career in massage therapy or if you are just interested in finding out more information about what it is and how it can benefit you.

Copyright 2017 Kate Leas.

Kate Leas is a freelance writer from Kansas City. Her current topics include education and the Internet.

How massage aides athletic performance

The last several decades have witnessed a dramatic rise in the level of athletic performance. Advances in training and conditioning techniques are allowing the human body to become a finely tuned machine. The limits of speed, endurance and strength are pushed every day and each year brings new world records. The leap in performance can be attributed to any number of key factors:

  • improved equipment;
  • enhanced understanding of how nutrition fuels the body;
  • enlightened attitudes about psychological aspects of competition;
  • scientific advances in the study of body structure and function.

American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has been an active participant in the formulation of new performance enhancement techniques. The growing awareness and use of sports massage therapy, a valuable addition to other manual therapies and treatments, has become a key component of the high performance mix, as much a part of an athlete’s critical discipline as a carefully monitored diet. AMTA and its National Sports Massage Team (NSMT) are integral parts of the new athletic regimen from sports medicine clinics, to college training rooms, to professional locker rooms, AMTA members are helping athletes work their way to even greater success. What is Therapeutic Massage?

“I would not provide sports medicine services for any major athletic event without massage therapists.” — Marjoirie J. Albohm, MS, ATC Chief Athletic Trainer, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games Therapeutic massage increasingly is being prescribed by physicians to complement traditional medical treatment for illness, injury and pain as a growing body of research documents its efficacy. Massage doesn’t just feel good. It reduces the heart rate and blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, reduces muscle tension/spasm, improves range of motion, and helps relieve pain, enhancing medical treatment.

Therapeutic massage involves manipulation of the soft tissue structures of the body. It soothes and calms, and aids in stress reduction; and it may improve the rate at which the body recovers from injury and illness. Working in conjunction with DukeUniversity, researchers at the Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine have measured the body¹s biochemical levels after massage therapy and found a dramatic decrease in the levels of cortisol, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Research also has measured changes in levels of endorphins and serotonin after sports massage, which may reduce pain and contribute to reduced levels of delayed onset muscle soreness. Sports Massage Techniques “I have found that massage therapy can provide a very effective adjunct to more traditional treatment of certain injuries of intercollegiate athletes.” — Bob Grams, MS, ATC Athletic Trainer & Assistant Professor, Seattle Pacific University Each sport and athletic event uses muscle groups in a different way.

Sports massage therapists must be familiar with each muscle, the muscle groups and how they are affected by the specific movements and stresses of each sport. They also are trained in the appropriate uses of hydrotherapy and cryotherapy. Sports massage therapy is often based on Swedish massage and frequently includes the use of one or more of the following techniques: Deep Swedish Massage Muscle-specific applications of the standard effleurage, petrissage, vibration, and tapotement techniques.

Compression Massage Rhythmic compression into muscles used to create a deep hypremia and softening effect in the tissues. It is generally used as a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work.

Cross-Fiber Massage Friction techniques applied in a general manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue, deep transverse friction applied to reduce adhesions and to help create strong, flexible repair during the healing process.

Trigger Point/Tender Point Massage Combined positioning and specific finger or thumb pressure into trigger/tender points in muscle and connective tissue, to reduce the hypersensitivity, muscle spasms and referred pain patterns that characterize the point.

Left untreated, such trigger/tender points often lead to restricted and painful movement of entire body regions. Lymphatic Massage Stimulation of specialized lymphatic-drainage pathways, which improves the body¹s removal of edemas and effusion. Added Performance Edge:

The Contributions of Sports Massage Professional sports massage by a qualified AMTA member can provide an athlete with several performance advantages. Regular sports massage can:

  • reduce the chance of injury, through proper stretching and event preparation, and through deep tissue massage;
  • improve range of motion and muscle flexibility, resulting in improved power and performance;
  • shorten recovery time between workouts;
  • maximize the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow;
  • enhance elimination of metabolic by-products of exercise.

Three Areas of Sports Massage Athletic trainers know that keeping an athlete in top physical form requires a regular prevention and maintenance program, as well as on-site treatment before and after an athletic event. And, when strains, sprains, bruises, or other major injuries occur, a variety of treatment modalities may be necessary to speed healing and reduce discomfort.

Sports massage therapy can help certified athletic trainers in all of these areas. Maintenance Massage “Sports massage bridges the gap to optimal performance.” — Curtis Millar Sports Massage Therapist Professional Hockey Team An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist’s understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble.

By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist helps the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training. Event Massage Pre- and post-event massage therapy are tailored for distinct purposes.

Pre-event massage is used as a supplement to an athlete’s warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Post-event massage, on the other hand, is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise.

Various sports massage techniques enhance the body¹s own recovery process, improving the athlete¹s return to high-level training and competition, and reducing the risk of injury. Rehabilitation Massage

“I was a little concerned, because I couldn’t really walk well…and my mobility was very, very limited. But two days of electrostim, massaging and heat treatments really loosened things up.”
— Michael Jordan Professional Basketball Player

Even with preventive maintenance, muscles cramp, tear, bruise, and ache. Sports massage can speed healing and reduce discomfort during the rehabilitation process. Soft tissue techniques employed by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to the “standard care” procedure in the acute stage of injury will improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous fluid removal throughout the healing cycle.

Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur both in the injured and “compensation” muscles. Cross-fiber friction techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue, which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during rehabilitation.

In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize. Sample of Research Documents

“Having massage therapy skills can tremendously enhance your sports care options.”
— Benny Vaughn ATC, CSCSAtlantaSchool of Massage

Tips for Back Pain Relief

There are a number of back pain relief remedies that are for the most part under your control. And sometimes, it’s nice to know some options that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.

Ice is a very effective pain reliever

Even with all the high tech medical options available, a simple ice application can still be one of the more effective, proven methods to treat a sore back or neck. Ice is typically most effective if it is applied soon after an injury occurs, or after any activity that causes pain or stiffness. Ice can also be very helpful in alleviating postoperative pain and discomfort. While any form of applying cold to the injured area – such as a bag of ice wrapped in a towel or a commercial ice pack – should be helpful, combining massage therapy with ice application is a nice alternative for pain relief. Heat therapy is good too

Effectiveness of Massage Therapy in Brighton and Hove, how to achieve it.

New Study Reviews Effectiveness of Massage Therapy: Researchers Draw Interesting Parallels Between Massage and Psychotherapy By Michael Devitt, senior associate editor Massage therapy is one of the fastest growing forms of alternative medicine in the country.

A 1998 study found that visits to massage therapists increased 36 percent between 1990 and 1997.1 More recently, a study published by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine this May2 found that massage was the ninth most popular form of alternative medicine in the country, with an estimated 5 percent of the adult American population using massage therapy at least once in the past 12 months. While the use of massage continues to rise, so has interest in massage research. While several meta-analyses of massage studies have been conducted in the past, each of them has been limited in scope, preferring to look at specific patient groups or types of therapy.

A new meta-analysis, published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal earlier this year,3 has taken a fresh look at the effectiveness of massage therapy in the adult population, and has concluded that it offers a wide range of physical and psychological benefits similar to those seen using other forms of care. In the analysis, researchers began with 144 studies that fit their definition of massage, which was defined as “the manual manipulation of soft tissue intended to promote health and well-being.” To qualify for inclusion, each study had to have been conducted on adults; studies on infants, or those employing therapeutic touch, ice massage, self-massage or with mechanical devices were eliminated.

In addition, each study had to (a) compare an MT group with at least one non-MT control group; (b) randomly assign subjects to groups; and (c) report data sufficient enough for a between-groups effect to be generated on at least one variable being studied. Results Thirty-seven studies met the above criteria and were used in the meta-analysis. The studies involved a total of 1,802 participants, including 795 who received therapy. The average number of participants per study was 48.7; the average age of a participant was 40.6. In some studies, massage was delivered only once; in others, it was performed multiple times. On average, participants received 21.7 minutes of therapy per treatment application. Sixty-five percent of the studies reported using a trained massage therapist (or therapists) to provide care; 22 percent reported using a “minimally trained” person or persons; and 14 percent did not indicate the level of training by the person (or persons) administering a treatment. Nine specific effects were measured in the studies.

In studies in which patients received a single application of massage therapy, anxiety state, blood-pressure levels, heart rate, negative mood, and immediate assessment of pain and cortisol levels were examined. In multiple-application studies, trait anxiety, depression and delayed assessment of pain were investigated. In the single-application studies, massage therapy (MT) produced “statistically significant” positive results for three effects compared to patients receiving a placebo or a different therapy.

According to the researchers: “… the average participant receiving MT experienced a reduction of state anxiety that was greater than 64 percent of participants receiving a comparison treatment. MT was also more effective than comparison treatments in reducing blood pressure and heart rate. The average MT participant experienced a reduction in blood pressure that was greater than 60 percent of comparison group participants, whereas for heart rate, the reduction resulting from MT was greater than 66 percent of comparison group participants.” In a surprise finding, massage did not reduce cortisol levels significantly, a result that differed from conclusions obtained in previous studies. In addition, massage therapy did not exhibit any effect on the immediate assessment of pain or a patient’s negative mood.

Despite these contrasting results, the scientists noted that “the significant finding for the cardiovascular variables suggests that future research should examine whether MT might have an enduring effect on blood pressure such that it could be used in treating hypertension.” In the multiple-application studies, “some of MT’s largest and most interesting effects” were observed. While massage didn’t appear to affect one’s immediate assessment of pain, “a significant effect” was found for delayed assessment of pain. Specifically, patients who received a course of massage therapy and were assessed several days or weeks after the last treatment session “exhibited levels of pain that were lower, on average, than 62 percent of comparison group participants” a finding that lends credence to the theory that massage may promote the reduction of pain by allowing restorative sleep to take place more easily.

The most significant effects of massage therapy were seen when measuring anxiety and depression levels. According to the researchers, “The average MT participant experienced a reduction of trait anxiety that was greater than 77 percent of comparison group participants, and a reduction of depression that was greater than 73 percent of comparison group participants.” So great were these reductions that the scientists considered massage therapy almost as effective as traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety and depression.

The Psychotherapy of the 21st Century?

The results of the meta-analysis dealt a blow to some commonly held beliefs about the effectiveness of massage therapy. For instance, the failure of massage to provide a significant effect on the immediate assessment of pain “contradicts the theory that MT provides stimuli that interfere with pain consistent with gate control theory.” In addition, while the reductions in blood pressure and heart rate supported existing beliefs that massage promotes a response in the parasympathetic nervous system, the authors noted that “if this theory is true, it would also be expected that a significant reduction in cortisol levels would have occurred, which did not.”

One new theory the researchers put forth was that massage therapy “may provide benefit in a way that parallels the common-factors model of psychotherapy.” In this model, the specific mode of psychotherapy delivered is secondary to other factors, such as a client’s positive expectation for treatment, a therapist who is warm and has a positive regard for the client, and the relationship between the therapies and the client. “The same model can be extended to MT, given the possibility that benefits arising from it may come about more from factors such as the recipient’s attitude toward MT, the therapist’s personal characteristics and expectations, and the interpersonal contact and communication that take place during treatment, as opposed to the specific form of MT used or the site to which it is applied,” the authors suggested.

Given the proposed similarities between massage therapy and psychotherapy, one might think that the benefits derived from massage are, in layman’s terms, “all in your head.” As the researchers asserted in their conclusion, this is hardly the case, but it does lead to intriguing possibilities for future massage research.

“The idea that MT has significant parallels with psychotherapy, and that perspectives gained from psycho-therapeutic research should be applied to future research, is not meant to suggest that MT delivers effects entirely by psychological means,” the scientists explained. “Clearly MT is at least partially a physical therapy, and some of its benefits almost certainly occur through physiological mechanisms. In fact, one of the most interesting aspects of MT is that it may deliver benefit in multiple ways.” “… However, whether researchers wish to study MT as a physical therapy, as a psychological one, or as both, new research should examine not merely the effects resulting from MT, but also the way in which these effects come about,” they advised. “It is only by testing MT theories that a better understanding of this ancient practice will result.”