Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Massage therapy has been around for centuries and continues to be increasingly popular. We know from our research that massage is among the top ten most frequently used complementary health practices by adults and by children. Researchers have been investigating the effects of massage therapy on a number of wide-ranging conditions, and while a lot of the research is preliminary or conflicting, there is scientific evidence that points toward beneficial effects on back pain. In fact, the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society have issued joint clinical practice guidelines that include massage therapy as one of the nonpharmacologic treatment options that should be considered for patients with low-back pain who do not improve on their own. There is also some evidence that massage may help improve quality of life for people with conditions such as depression, cancer, or HIV/AIDS.
We have some information about the evidence base of massage therapy for health purposes on our Web site. If you or a loved one is considering massage therapy for a particular health condition, I encourage you to take a look at this information and talk it over with your health care provider. Although massage therapy appears to be safe when performed by a trained professional, some people with certain health conditions should take precautions. As always, take care and be well!