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National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

NCCIH Clinical Digest. For health professionals.

Massage Therapy for Health Purposes

February 2014
seated massage

Massage therapy dates back thousands of years, with roots in many different cultures. The term “massage therapy” includes many different styles and techniques in which the therapist uses varying degrees of pressure and manipulation to muscle and other soft tissue.

A lot of the scientific research on the clinical effects of massage therapy has been carried out. While often preliminary or conflicting, much of the evidence points toward beneficial effects on pain and other symptoms associated with a number of different conditions. For example, there is evidence that massage may help with back pain and may improve quality of life for people with depression, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. However, much of the evidence suggests these effects are short term and that people need to keep getting massages for the benefits to continue.

This issue of the digest provides information on what the science currently says about the clinical effects of massage for several health conditions, including pain, cancer, depression, and others.

Time to Talk Tips: 6 Things To Know About Massage Therapy for Health Purposes

Read more about what the science says

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NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

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