What are the benefits of massage therapy?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
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.
This content originally appeared on doctoroz.com
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.)
Mosaraf Ali, MD
Integrative Medicine

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. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

Massage therapy has been utilized for thousands of years for relaxation, relief of muscle tension and pain, joint problems, tendon problems and to improve circulation. There are over eighty different types of massage and they each have their own purpose. Many utilize hands and feet, high-pressure water and others use hot stones.

The point of massage therapy is that it can help do many things including relax you and ease muscle pain and tension.

Dawn Saunders
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

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.

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Treat yourself to more touching through massage. It may seem like a luxury, but it doesn't have to be. If you were to add up the cost of eating dinner out once a week for a month, you'd have plenty of money to get a massage, body scrub, and/or facial and enjoy all the amenities offered at most spas. The healing power of touch is grossly underestimated in our society, yet it's one of the most effective tools for emotional care.

Massage not only benefits the muscles and tissues being kneaded and stretched but also has been found to lower stress levels significantly. It's been shown to increase weight gain in premature infants, alleviate depression, reduce pain in cancer patients, improve sleep patterns, and positively alter the immune system. Research from the renowned Touch Research Institute shows that it's as beneficial to touch as it is to be touched. And, more recently, researchers at the University of North Carolina, alongside scientists in Europe, are unraveling how the body responds to pleasurable touch. They have identified a class of nerve fibers in the skin that specifically send pleasure messages. Called the C-tactile nerve fibers, they send feel-good messages to the brain upon stimulation through pleasurable touch.

Healing touch therapy can take many forms, not just classic massage. Experiment with what your local spa has to offer. Bring this concept to home and into the bedroom with your partner, too. In between the more elaborate spa visits, schedule brief, inexpensive manicures, pedicures, or simply exchange five minutes of chair massage with your best friend at work. Studies have shown that these can dramatically reduce job stress while increasing productivity and alertness.
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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.

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.

Continue Learning about Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy

Massage is often used as an adjunct therapy for a number of conditions, including back pain and chemotherapy. It has been shown to be an effective means to relieve stress. Massage can be an important part of sports medicine as it ...

helps to improve circulation and alleviate muscle cramping. Specific techniques for self massage may help with tired eyes, neck and even hands. Therapeutic massage from a competent therapist is sometimes combined with chiropractic care. Take care when selecting a massage therapist, as the adult entertainment industry is well known for non-therapeutic massageit's important to draw the distinction if seeking healthcare-related work.

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.