Pain Relief

Benefits of Therapeutic Massage for Pain Relief

The tranquility, caring, and relieving aspects can be a draw to massage for many, however there are many proven health benefits of receiving regular massages as well. The techniques used by modern day healers have been refined across the world for centuries. Somewhat more recently, we have investigated the numerous benefits of massage through numerous peer-reviewed large scale studies (shown at the end of the article) and the results show that massage can be an excellent treatment for many people with very common health concerns, and a boon for the healthy.

It is well known that massage therapy can improve the quality of life for those suffering from chronic pain. During a massage, previously stiff muscles, tendons, and joints are guided into a state of relaxation, impeding pain messages by stimulating competing nerve fibres, according to Harvard Health publishing. Those suffering from long-term lower back pain may experience less and better sleep following a massage (Lower back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy) (Effectiveness of massage therapy for subacute low-back pain: a randomized controlled trial). The University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage therapy reduced levels of substance P (which delivers pain signals around the body), helping sufferers of fibromyalgia feel more relaxed and resulted in less tender point pain. The Annals of Family Medicine found in 2014 that 60-minute therapeutic massage sessions two or three times a week for four weeks relieved chronic neck pain. General levels of pain were shown to be affected beneficially as well in a large study (The Effects of Massage Therapy on Pain Management in the Acute Care Setting), and those with fibromyalgia and other generalized pain conditions can find much relief in massage as well (Massage therapy for fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials).

Massage therapy has been shown to have beneficial effects on the levels of many of our brains key neurotransmitters, the health of which is just as important as the body which is healed during a massage. Serotonin and dopamine levels have been shown to be raised by the significant level of about thirty percent during and after a massage, while cortisol was reduced by a similar amount (Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy). Serotonin levels have far reaching effects on our brain including the systems of reward, well being, cognitive processing, learning, memory, and various physiological processes. The reduced levels of stress associated with proper serotonin balance make massage a helpful possibility for those suffering from psychological conditions such as depression (Massage therapy effects on depression and somatic symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome), possibly helping kick-start an active lifestyle. Reduced cortisol levels can be a godsend for those with day to day stress. Low dopamine levels can adversely impact emotional state, gross/fine motor control, sleep, learning/concentration, and memory retention. Massage has even been shown to help with brain related conditions which many may not think of, such as anorexia (Anorexia nervosa symptoms are reduced by massage therapy), anxiety (Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations). Thus, massage can be a huge boon for a healthy mind along with a healthy body.


There are many conditions which are lesser known to be treated by massage, but which can still be a huge boon to sufferers. People with diabetes type 1 or type 2 may be surprised to find out how much massage can do for them by interacting with glucose, insulin absorption, and stress levels (Alternative therapies useful in the management of diabetes: A systematic review). The increased circulation induced by massage can led to an improvement in 56% cases of diabetic neuropathy of the lower extremities (Valtonen EJ, Lilius HG. Syncardial massage in diabetic and other neuropathies lower extremities. Dis Nerv Syst. 1973;34:192–4.). Those with high blood pressure should look into massage as well, as according to pubmed “Findings of the study indicated that massage therapy was a safe, effective, applicable and cost-effective intervention in controlling BP of the prehypertension women and it can be used in the health care centers and even at home.” Migraine and tension headaches can melt away with this and the effect massage has on this and trigger points. Arthritis pain can be reduced as well with a once a week massage practice (Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial). Even posture and athletic performance will get a boost from receiving regular massages, leading to good health in many contexts. With all of these benefits for so many conditions, it could be a really good idea for most people to get a massage and see how they feel. They may get the relief they desire in one area, but also many more unexpected ones and with continued administration will be firmly on the road to healing, activity, and peace of mind.

The Effects of Massage Therapy on Pain Management in the Acute Care Setting

Rose Adams, Barb White, Cynthia Beckett

Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2010; 3(1): 4–11. Published online 2010 Mar 17.

PMCID: PMC3091428

Givi M. Durability of effect of massage therapy on blood pressure. Int J Prev Med. 2013;4(5):511–516.

Perlman AI, Ali A, Njike VY, et al. Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30248. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030248

Valtonen EJ, Lilius HG. Syncardial massage in diabetic and other neuropathies lower extremities. Dis Nerv Syst. 1973;34:192–4.

Li YH, Wang FY, Feng CQ, Yang XF, Sun YH. Massage therapy for fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e89304. Published 2014 Feb 20. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089304

Preyde M. Effectiveness of massage therapy for subacute low-back pain: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2000;162(13):1815–1820.

Pandey A, Tripathi P, Pandey R, Srivatava R, Goswami S. Alternative therapies useful in the management of diabetes: A systematic review. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011;3(4):504–512. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.90103

Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.

Tiffany Field, Maria Hernandez-Reif, Miguel Diego, Saul Schanberg, Cynthia Kuhn

Int J Neurosci. 2005 Oct; 115(10): 1397–1413. doi: 10.1080/00207450590956459

Hart, S., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Nearing, G., Shaw, S., Schanberg, S. & Kuhn, C. (2001). Anorexia nervosa symptoms are reduced by massage therapy. Eating Disorders, 9, 289-299.


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.

Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., & Theakston, H. (2001). Lower back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 131-145.

Field, T.M., Sunshine, W., Hernandez-Reif, M., Quintino, O., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C., & Burman, I. (1997). Massage therapy effects on depression and somatic symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 3, 43-51.