What are the benefits of massage therapy?

Dr. Mosaraf Ali, MD
Integrative Medicine Specialist

Massage is a wonderful relaxation technique and just plain feels good. But it also has some surprising health benefits. In this video, integrative medicine expert and Dr. Oz Show guest Mosaraf Ali discusses what you can gain from a rubdown.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Getting a massage at a spa or from your loved one feels good and is good for you. One study showed decreased levels of cortisol and an increase in depression-fighting serotonin levels after massage. Another study found an increase of beta-endorphin levels, which is linked with pain relief and the feelings of warmth and well-being.

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Massage can be used for relaxation or for therapeutic effects. Massage can help increase blood flow, decrease pain and reduce swelling.

This answer provided for NATA by the Washington State University Athletic Training Education Program.

Dawn Saunders
Alternative & Complementary Medicine Specialist

The benefits of massage therapy have been published with greater frequency in the last five years. The evidence has shown that massage therapy:

  • increases serotonin (a happy hormone)
  • increases dopamine (another feel-good chemical)
  • increases parasympathetic (rest and digest bodily reponse) tone
  • decreases cortisol (a long-term stress hormone)
  • decreases pain
  • decreases depression symptoms
  • decreases nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • decreases hospital stay time in certain populations (cancer patients, pre-term infants). 

We are still unsure of dosing strategies, but most studies have utilized 30 minute applications of varied techniques.

Besides helping physically with postoperative care, evidence shows that massage can help psychologically.

Anxiety, stress and tension all take a toll on the body, so it seems logical that relaxation treatments, such as massage, might aid in recovery.

When a body is tense, it tends to feel more pain. Perhaps that is why some recommend that you exhale when you are tearing a Band-Aid away from a wound.

Studies suggest that patients who receive a daily foot or back massage tend to experience less pain than others who are not massaged.

Massage is a popular hands-on healing method that has been practiced for thousands of years. Limited studies have shown that massage may be beneficial for reducing muscle tension, improving digestion, relieving anxiety and depression, and decreasing low back pain. The effects of massage on the immune system are unclear, although immune stimulation has been cited.

Debra Fulghum Bruce PhD
Healthcare Specialist

The many benefits of massage therapy include increased relaxation, greater mobility of joints, decreased muscle tightness and improved circulation. No matter what type of pain or tension you have, a soothing massage will help you relax and that can help you sleep better and enjoy a more positive mood.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.