The term “massage therapy” includes many techniques, and the type of massage given usually depends on your needs and physical condition. In general, massage therapists work on muscle and other soft tissue to help you feel better.
A lot of the scientific research on massage therapy is preliminary or conflicting, but much of the evidence points toward beneficial effect on pain and other symptoms associated with a number of different conditions. Here are six things you should know about massage therapy for health purposes.
- Evidence suggests that massage therapy may be useful for some pain conditions such as low-back pain and chronic neck pain. However, research on massage for headaches is preliminary and only somewhat promising.
- Research has suggested that at least for the short-term, massage therapy for cancer patients may reduce pain. Evidence has suggested that massage therapy may also promote relaxation and boost mood in people with cancer.
- A recent review of scientific literature concluded that massage therapy may help to reduce depression. However, a 2013 review found there is not enough evidence to determine if massage helps pregnant mothers with depression.
- A 2010 review concluded that massage therapy may help temporarily reduce pain, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, but the evidence is not definitive. The authors of the review noted that it is important that the massage therapist not cause pain.
- Several studies on massage therapy in preterm infants have been conducted to determine if therapeutic massage provides any benefits. A 2010 review of the scientific literature suggested that massaging preterm infants using moderate pressure may improve weight gain. However, a 2013 review determined that there is not enough evidence to know if massage benefits healthy infants who are developing normally.
- Massage therapy appears to have few risks when performed by a trained practitioner. However, massage therapists should take some precautions with certain health conditions. You should talk with your health care providers to determine if massage therapy is safe for you.