Massage therapy health benefit
January 22 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Research shows massage can lower stress, tension and fatigue, and one study in the International Journal of Neuroscience showed people given massage therapy proved more alert and calculated math problems faster and more accurately.

Will work for massage
More companies are offering employees the on-site pleasures of massage and yoga, not just to make their staff happy but to be competitive and even boost the bottom line. In a sign of their appeal, programs such as on-site massage -- when a company may hire a licensed masseuse to set up shop in a spare room -- typically show up as desirable factors in lists of the best U.S. places to work. A survey by Massage Therapy Journal found at most companies that offer massage, more than half added it in the last five years. In New York, a number of hedge funds offer employees massage or yoga during their workdays.

Influence on cortisol levels
Research seems to be inconsistent.

Q. I'm a remedial massage student and I'm writing an assignment about Cushing's syndrome and massage. I'm finding it very difficult to find any information whatsoever, in fact, I'm sot sure this has ever been investigated. If someone is using cortisol medication is massage indicated or contraindicated, and why?
   A. I have not come across studies regarding its role in Cushing's syndrome. I don't see any contraindication to massage therapy in people taking cortisol medication.

J Bodywork Mov Ther. 2011 Jan. Does massage therapy reduce cortisol? A comprehensive quantitative review.
University of Wisconsin-Stout, USA.
It is frequently asserted that massage therapy (MT) reduces cortisol levels, and that this mechanism is the cause of MT benefits including relief from anxiety, depression, and pain, but reviews of MT research are not in agreement on the existence or magnitude of such a cortisol reduction effect, or the likelihood that it plays such a causative role.  Our review shows MT's effect on cortisol is generally very small and, in most cases, not statistically distinguishable from zero. As such, it cannot be the cause of MT's well-established and statistically larger beneficial effects on anxiety, depression, and pain. We conclude that other causal mechanisms, which are still to be identified, must be responsible for MT's clinical benefits.

Massage in patients undergoing intensive chemotherapy reduces serum cortisol and prolactin.
Psychooncology. 2008.
The objective is to identify whether single 20 min massage sessions were safe and effective in reducing stress levels of isolated haematological oncology patients. 39 patients were randomised to aromatherapy, massage or rest (control) arm. The measures were serum cortisol and prolactin levels, quality of life and semi-structured interviews. This pilot study demonstrated that in isolated haematological oncology patients, a significant reduction in cortisol could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being.

Cerebral palsy
Q. I'm currently going to school for massage therapy. i was wondering if you could email me and tell me your thoughts on massage therapy for patients with cerebral palsy. just your thoughts on how it would benefit them and your thoughts on everything related to it.
   A. We could only find one study regarding the role of massage

Effects of massage on the mechanical behaviour of muscles in adolescents with spastic diplegia: a pilot study.
Dev Med Child Neurol. 2007. Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.
Calf muscles of five adolescents aged 12 to 15 years (three males, two females) with spastic diplegia were massaged for 14 minutes twice a week for 5 weeks in a controlled sequence, stretching the muscles transversely rather than longitudinally, without eliciting pain. Slow, passive test stretches were applied before and after massage. After massage, the range of movement was not consistently increased but, on average, greater force was needed to stretch the muscle than before massage. However, after massage the resting ankle angle sometimes changed so that the calf muscles were either shorter or longer. We suggest that these phenomena could be explained if massage resets sarcomere lengths which corrects for thixotropic effects (i.e. previous use modifies a muscle's mechanical behaviour). A redistribution on sarcomere lengths within muscles could also have reset proprioceptive feedback. The incidence of abnormal stretch reflexes during test stretches fell from 40 to 22%, comparing the first five sessions with the last five sessions. The amplitude of voluntary alternating ankle rotation increased in three participants. Motor skills were assessed with the Gross Motor Function Measure-66 (GMFM-66) 1 week before the test period, during the 5th week, and 12 weeks later. Our participants in Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) Levels I and II made sustained improvements in GMFM-66 scores (6.4% at 5 weeks falling to 5.5% at 17 weeks), one increase being significant. One participant in GMFCS Level III improved significantly only after massage of all leg muscles for 30 weeks.

Massage and dementia help
Gentle massage therapy shows some promise for easing dementia patients' agitation and anxiety. In a review of two clinical trials, Danish researchers found that hand massage helped calm dementia patients' agitation levels, while gentle touch and "verbal encouragement" at mealtime improved their food intake.The findings suggest that human touch could help allay the agitation, anxiety and other behavioral and emotional problems that come with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Cochrane Library, online October 18, 2006.

Massage after exercise
Massage can help improve muscle function and recovery after exercise and perhaps reduce inflammation of muscle tissue. Massage may lessen the movement of white blood cells into muscle tissue, which would in turn cut down on tissue damage by reducing oxidative damage these cells can cause. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, July 2008.

Massage after surgery
An evening back massage helps relieve the pain and anxiety experienced by patients after major surgery.

Infant Massage Benefit
Infant massage has long been used in many Asian and African cultures to ease babies' colic and fussiness, help them sleep, and even aid their growth and development. There is growing interest in infant massage among parents in Western countries as well. To assess the science behind the practice, UK researchers analyzed 23 clinical trials in which infants younger than 6 months were randomly assigned to receive massage or not. They found that across nine of the studies, gentle massage appeared to improve infants' sleep patterns, ease crying, and strengthen mother-child bonding. Some studies found that massage lowered babies' levels of certain stress hormones. Given this apparent hormonal effect, it's "not surprising" that massage seemed to improve sleep and crying, according to the researchers, led by Angela Underdown of the University of Warwick in Coventry, England.

Pain Reduction
Swedish massage and arthritis pain
People who suffer from the pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis of the knee may find relief with Swedish massage.
In a study, reported he Archives of Internal Medicine, doctors assigned 68 subjects with knee arthritis to either a massage group or to a "usual care" comparison group. The people in the massage group received standard Swedish massage for one hour twice a week for one month followed by one hour once a week for the second month. Those who got massage showed improvement at the end of 8 weeks compared to their baseline and compared to the usual care control group. Swedish massage is not a replacement for existing therapies, but can be used in addition to exercise, weight loss, and natural supplements. Archives of Internal Medicine, December 11, 2006.

Holist Nurs Pract. 2014 Mar-Apr. A comparison of still point induction to massage therapy in reducing pain and increasing comfort in chronic pain. A quantitative study was completed to determine whether complementary techniques provide pain relief and comfort in patients with chronic pain. Subjects participated in sessions including aromatherapy and music therapy. Massage or cranial still point induction was randomly assigned. Statistically significant improvement in pain and comfort was noted in both groups.

Massage Research - Neurotransmitter and hormone changes from massage therapy
Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.
Int J Neurosci. 2005. Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C.
Touch Research Institutes, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
In this article the positive effects of massage therapy on biochemistry are reviewed including decreased levels of cortisol and increased levels of serotonin and dopamine. In studies in which cortisol was assayed either in saliva or in urine, significant decreases were noted in cortisol levels after massage therapy. In studies in which the activating neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) were assayed in urine, massage therapy led to an increase in serotonin and dopamine. These studies combined suggest the stress-alleviating effects (decreased cortisol) and the activating effects (increased serotonin and dopamine) of massage therapy on a variety of medical conditions and stressful experiences.

J Jpn Phys Ther Assoc. 2015. Effects of Massage Therapy and Occlusal Splint Usage on Quality of Life and Pain in Individuals with Sleep Bruxism: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of massage therapy on the masticatory muscles and occlusal splint usage on quality of life and pain in individuals with sleep bruxism. A randomized, controlled, blinded, clinical trial was conducted involving 78 volunteers aged 18 to 40 years with sleep bruxism. Quality of life and pain assessments were performed. Significant differences were found on the physical functioning, general health state, vitality, role emotional and mental health subscales. A large effect size was found for all treatment protocols with regard to pain. The largest effect was found in the combined treatment group. The findings of the present study reveal that the occlusal splint usage alone led to improvements in components of quality of life among individuals with sleep bruxism. Moreover, both treatments (occlusal splint usage and massage therapy on the masticatory muscles) led to a reduction in pain.