Massage is one of the most popular spa treatments offered around the world today. When it comes to reducing stress, spending 50 minutes on a massage table is the perfect ticket to instant gratification.
The treatment’s short-term effects – relaxed muscles, reduced tension, a great night’s sleep – are undoubtedly blissful, but evidence-based medicine has shown that massage can yield deeper physical and psychological benefits and aid in the treatment of chronic illness and disease.
Medicinal Benefits of a Massages
SpaEvidence.com, a website that provides access to evidence-based medicine for common spa and wellness treatments, has aggregated research behind more than 30 “modalities” ranging from acupressure to yoga. Under massage, the site has pulled together a range of studies, some of which report positive effects. In some cases, more research is needed to confirm the results but the studies still remain promising. Here’s what you might find while browsing through the archives:
Massages can reduce stress: A game-changer study done by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2010 showed that Swedish massage significantly decreased levels of stress hormones cortisol and arginine vasopressin. So while reduced stress, pain, and muscle tension can be seen as “shorter term” effects of massage, the chemical changes triggered by this treatment take it to another level.
Some medical databases might claim that more research is needed to prove the positive benefits of massage as a treatment for certain diseases and illnesses. However, studies have already reported encouraging results for the following physical and psychological conditions:
- Fibromyalgia: A 2011 study showed a massage-myofascial program can reduce pain sensitivity and anxiety levels in patients with fibromyalgia while helping improve sleep quality and physical function.
- Headaches/Migraines: A study conducted at the University of Auckland (New Zealand) showed that participants had fewer migraines and better sleep quality when undergoing a weekly massage treatment regimen.
- Chemotherapy/Cancer: A report in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shared the results of a randomized trial conducted at the University of Göteborg (Sweden), which found that massage significantly reduced nausea in women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.
- Dementia: A pilot study showed a 36-minute increase in the length of nighttime sleep for patients suffering from Dementia after they received just three minutes of slow-stroke back massage.
- Autism: A 2011 randomized controlled trial of parent- and trainer-delivered Qigong massage for young children with autism showed reduced measures of autism as well as abnormal sensory responses.
While many databases or individual studies will stress (no pun intended) that massage should not replace traditional medical care, many health care providers will suggest massage as an alternative treatment to supplement or combine with other standard medical treatments.
With more studies being conducted every year, the proven track record of massage as a treatment for medical conditions can only be expected to strengthen, and the timing couldn’t be better. As an overall sense of well-being becomes more and more important to generations young and old, routine massage treatments are increasingly looking like the go-to option for time and money well spent.
About the author:
Dulcy Gregory is a freelance writer, based in Aspen, Colorado, with a knack for balancing creativity and organization. She learned everything there is to know about spas, wellbeing and how to live (and travel) well in six years of work for one of the world’s largest spa and wellness media companies, SpaFinder Wellness. Believing in writing as both a personal and professional passion, Dulcy enrolled in and graduated from a Master’s degree program in Creative Writing at the New School in 2012. She is an avid Vinyasa yoga student and considers kale one of the best foods on the planet. Follower Dulcy on her blog, D.A.G.