Massage therapy obviously provides pain relief for sore muscles.
But it’s is really meant as a whole-body approach, says AMTA vice president and licensed massage therapist M.K. Brennan, RN, LMBT.
“One of the things about massage is that it helps with pain relief is that it goes down to the heart of where people feel their pain,” Brennan tells WebMD. “There is the overall sense of well-being one can get from the massage approach. And the stress responses in the body associated with pain, such as elevated cortisol, are reduced through massage.”
For these reasons, massage therapy can be used to treat many different kinds of pain, says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
“Basically we have found massage to be effective in chronic pain syndromes in arthritis and diabetes; in depressive disorders such as ones that involve addiction like eating disorders; in chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and other autoimmune disorders — HIV-associated diseases, too,” Field told WebMD in a June 29 interview. “We have looked at the A-to-Z of medical conditions, and we have not found a single condition massage therapy has not been effective for.”
Studies have shown Massage can trigger an endorphin release that raises your threshold for pain. Specific types of massage for pain management like Swedish and sports massage therapy can also help boost mood and relaxation by releasing oxytocin and serotonin.
If you have chronic conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia or migraines, massage may be a helpful aid in managing pain. A study from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami showed that receiving massage on a regular basis lowers anxiety, reduces pain and improves grip strength for those with arthritis. If you battle with pain due to fibromyalgia, research has shown that receiving regular therapeutic massage reduces pain, anxiety and depression and encourages relaxation, which can help restore normal sleep patterns.
Some base findings about the value of massage therapy for pain relief have included the following:
According to Cherkin, Eisenberg, et. al. in the April 2001 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine,1 massage is effective for providing long-lasting relief for patients suffering from chronic low back pain.
Data collected nearly 10 years ago indicates that therapeutic massage promotes relaxation and alleviates the perception of pain and anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients.2 Recent studies have confirmed the findings and others indicate positive effects for massage in decreasing pain intensity among cancer patients.3
In 1990, Jensen et al. published data indicating that massage was better than cold pack treatment of post-traumatic headaches.4 The October 2002 issue of the American Journal of Public Health reports that new research by Quinn, Chandler and Moraska showed muscle-specific massage is effective for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headaches.5
A pilot study in 2000, conducted by Gregory P. Fontana, MD at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, found that massage reduces pain and muscle spasms in patients who have multiple incisions. When surveyed, 95 percent of patients felt that massage was a crucial part of their hospital experience, while need for medications dropped on days they received Massage therapy treatment.