THE "SCI" IN MASSAGE SCI

 

Science is hard work. It takes combined efforts of countless people many years to get one step closer to a greater understanding. 

Historically, sound massage studies have been few. That's changing, but massage still faces challenges in research environments.

 

First, unlike many other healthcare professions, massage therapy lacks national educational standards. Pick any two massage therapists, and they may have vastly different education in terms of anatomy, pathology, and scientific literacy. Recently, nearly all states have adopted license laws. A big positive step forward, but lots more ground to cover in standardizing massage therapy education. 

 

Next, the word "massage therapy" can encompass a wide variety of approaches and techniques. Massage therapy delivered in one study may look very different than in another study, or even within the study itself from session or session.

 

And lastly, there are different levels (strengths) of research to consider. Not all published studies are a high "strength level" (see the diagram) and not all studies have the appropriate checks and balances in place for conclusions to be valid and without bias.
 

The body of scientific knowledge is always growing and changing. Even when studies may disprove long-held massage "sacred cows" - it's still another step forward.

 

Massage makes people feel better. But it's really exciting learning exactly why and how that happens, through the scientific method. It's important to remember that one study never "proves" anything, but a growing body of evidence will.

 

Below are recent studies done on massage therapy, and I will continue to add, as more are published.

PAIN


2016 META-ANALYSIS

"massage therapy may be beneficial, with minimal safety concerns, for treating various pain and function-related outcomes in pain populations. Specifically, results demonstrate the efficacy of massage therapy compared to sham, no treatment, and active comparators. Compared to active comparators, massage therapy was also beneficial for treating anxiety and health-related quality of life."

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2016 META-ANALYSIS
"Massage therapy appears to be efficacious for reducing pain and anxiety in patients who are either about to undergo or are recovering from surgical procedures."

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2014 META-ANALYSIS

"massage … had beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety, and depression in patients with fibromyalgia ... However ... large-scale randomized controlled trials with long follow-up are warrant to confirm the current findings"

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2014 SYSTEMATIC REVIEW

"Overall, most styles of massage therapy consistently improved the quality of life for fibromyalgia patients." 

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2012 SYSTEMATIC REVIEW

"massage interventions are effective to provide a short-term improvement of sub-acute and chronic low back pain symptoms and decreasing disability at immediate post treatment and short-term relief when massage therapy is combined with therapeutic exercise and education."

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2003 SYSTEMATIC REVIEW

"Initial studies have found massage to be effective for persistent back pain ... Preliminary evidence suggests that massage, but not acupuncture or spinal manipulation, may reduce the costs of care after an initial course of therapy."

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2016 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL
"in patients with chronic neck pain ... stabilization exercises with [massage] might be superior in improving pain intensity at night, pressure pain threshold ... compared to stabilization exercises alone." 

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2015 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL

"[adding] a 5-minute massage treatment at the time of [pain killer] administration significantly increased [post-op] patient satisfaction with pain management."

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2015 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL

"results indicate that compression at [muscle trigger points] is effective to treat acute low back pain"

source...

 

2014 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL

"massage] showed a significant reduction in subjective pain perception and an increased function [for carpal tunnel syndrome]

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2014 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL

"[massage] had a positive effect on reducing pain in patients with chronic low back pain. Concurrent use of [massage] and NSAID contributed to low back pain reduction in a similar degree that the [massage] did." 

source...

 

 

 

 

 

CANCER

 

2016 META-ANALYSIS

"Massage therapy appears to be promising for reducing pain intensity/severity, fatigue, and anxiety in cancer populations compared to the active comparators evaluated in this systematic review. Patients should consider massage therapy as a therapeutic option to help manage their cancer pain."

source...

 

 

STRESS


2015 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL

"results show that family caregivers for patients with cancer can benefit from back massage to improve state anxiety, cortisol level, blood pressure and heart rate, and sleep quality"

source...

 

2015 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL
"with respect to this study, massage therapy is a safe and effective treatment in intensive care units to reduce patient's physical and psychological problems"

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JAW & TMD

 

2015 SYSTEMATIC REVIEW

"There is moderate to high evidence that massage therapy techniques protocols are effective [in treating temporomandibular disorders.]" 

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2014 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL

"Massage therapy and the use of an occlusal splint ... led to a reduction in the intensity of signs and symptoms among individuals with severe TMD and sleep bruxism"

source...


 

ATHLETICS

 

2017 META-ANALYSIS

"massage therapy after strenuous exercise could be effective for alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness and improving muscle performance."

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2016 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL
"Massage therapy was more effective than no intervention on the post-race recovery from pain and perceived fatigue in long-distance triathlon athletes."

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PREGNANCY

 

2010 SYSTEMATIC REVIEW
"[pregnant] women who received massage reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain."
source...


2015 RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL
"[massage] therapy can effectively reduce [low back pain] during the first post-partum month."
source...

 

 

 

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