Research Shows Benefits of Massage Therapy for Self-Care



Any individual who has had a massage is aware of its effect, but research has brought into focus the science behind what actually happens during a massage. For over 20 years, trials have shown the positive effects of massage therapy for stress relief. In a study of trigger point therapy, data showed a significant decrease in heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and salivary cortisol levels after just a 10 to 15 minute chair massage. Changes in the recipients’ psychology have been measured by correlating physiological responses, the Perceived Stress Scale, the POMS Depression Scale, and the Anxiety State Scale.


Research continues to record the impact for relief of anxiety and depression for individuals that are in a wide spectrum of health circumstances. For instance, one random study found women with stage 1 and stage 2 breast cancer benefited from repeated massage therapy appointments. The immediate massage therapy benefits included reduced anxiety, depressed mood and anger, while long term effects included reduced depression and higher serotonin levels. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to functions all over the body, works to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning.


Ranging from the muscle stress and soreness as a result of excessively straining oneself, to serious or chronic pain, massages show positive results. Consumers are realizing its value, as 41% of American adults who had a massage in the last 5 years indicate they wanted massages to relieve pain.

A meta-analysis of research on massage therapy for pain done by Samueli Institute in 2016 found that massage therapy should be strongly suggested for keeping pain in check. The analysis consisted of 67 published studies on the impact of massage therapy on pain.

Find a Massage Therapist Near You

A qualified massage therapist may have an important role in maintaining the health of those trying to improve their self-care. Individuals should consult with a qualified, professional massage therapist to decide the best course of massage therapy to meet their specific needs. By meeting or surpassing state training requirements, following a code of ethics and taking part in continuing education, American Message Therapy Association massage therapists are suitable additions to any person’s wellness routine and create specific approaches based on individual needs, conditions, fitness and goals.

To find a massage therapist in your area, the American Massage Therapy Association offers a free professional massage therapist locator service at

About The American Massage Therapy Association

The American Massage Therapy Association, the most reliable name in massage therapy, is the largest non-profit, professional association working for massage therapists, massage students and massage schools. AMTA tries to progress the profession through ethics and standards, the promotion of fair and consistent licensing of massage therapists in all states, and public education on the benefits of massage.


· Delaney, J.P., Leong, K.S., Watkins, A., & Brodie, D. (2002). The short-term effects of myofascial trigger point massage therapy on cardiac autonomic tone in healthy subjects. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 37, 364-71.

· Boone, T., Tanner, M., & Radosevich, A. (2001). Effects of a 10-minute back rub on cardiovascular responses in healthy subjects. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 29, 47-52.

· Cady, S. H., & Jones, G. E. (1997). Massage therapy as a workplace intervention for reduction of stress. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 84, 157-158.

· Field, T., Ironson, G., Scafidi, F., Nawrocki, T., Goncalves, A., Burman, I., Pickens, J., Fox, N., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (1996). Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. International Journal of Neuroscience, 86, 197-205.

· Brennan, M.K. & DeBate, R. (2004).The effect of chair massage on stress perception of hospital bedside nurses. Massage Therapy Journal 43, (1), 76-86.

· Field, T., Quintino, O., Henteleff, T., Wells-Keife, L., & Delvecchio-Feinberg, G. (1997). Job stress reduction therapies. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 3, (4), 54-56.

· MacDonald, G. (1998). Massage offers respite for primary care givers. The American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care, Jan/Feb, 43-47.

· Jane, S.W., Wilkie, D.J., Gallucci, B.B., Beaton, R.D., Huang, H.Y. (2009). Effects of a Full-Body Massage on Pain Intensity, Anxiety, and Physiological Relaxation in Taiwanese Patients with Metastatic Bone Pain: A Pilot Study. J Pain Symptom Manage. 37(4):754-63.

· Imanishi, J., Kuriyama, H., Shigemori, I., Watanabe, S., Aihara, Y., Kita, M., Sawai, K., Nakajima, H., Yoshida, N., Kunisawa, M., Kawase, M., Fukui, K. (2007). Anxiolytic Effect of Aromatherapy Massage in Patients with Breast Cancer. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.

· Smith, M., Reeder, F., Daniel, L., Baramee, J., Hagman, J. (2003). Outcomes of touch therapies during bone marrow transplant. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9(1) 40-49.

· Hughes, D., Ladas, E., Rooney, D., Kelly, K. (2008). Massage therapy as a supportive care intervention for children with cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum, 35(3):431-42.

· American Massage Therapy Association annual consumer survey conducted by ORC International, July 2017.

Pain Medicine, first published online: 10 May 2016.