News-slider-and-featured_health-problems_webMassage therapy is an ancient practice that is being validated by modern research.

The most recent survey by the American Hospital Association showed that more than 40 percent of U.S. hospitals offer complementary health care, including massage, to inpatients, outpatients, family members and staff; massage is known for its stress-and-pain relieving benefits.

Did you know that massage benefits people suffering from some of the most common health problems today? From arthritis and fibromyalgia to back pain and cancer—and many more conditions not included here—massage is a proven modality that improves lives in a manner that is enjoyable and cost-effective.

1. Arthritis

Almost 27 million Americans currently have osteoarthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about half of all Americans will develop knee osteoarthritis in their lifetime. Massage therapy can assist the osteoarthritic client by decreasing swelling, improving joint flexibility, and supporting improved posture, according to massage educator and therapist Jimmy Gialelis, L.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., in his article, “5 Ways Massage Lessens Osteoarthritis Pain and Stiffness.”

Benefits of massage are potent even when not immediately obvious, Gialelis says: “As the massage client begins to experience proper joint mobility, the nervous system will begin re-educating itself via proprioceptive activity. Efficient movement patterns can be restored compared to pre-osteoarthritis patterns.”


2. Cancer

Massage therapy is used at hospitals nationwide to provide pain relief and relaxation to cancer patients. During and after treatment, cancer survivors may utilize lymphatic drainage or gentle Swedish massage for ongoing benefits. Oncology massage is a specialty, and practitioners of it have gone through specific training to understand how massage benefits cancer patients; when massage is contraindicated; and how to work in the medical environment.

According to oncology massage specialist Cheryl Chapman, R.N., H.N.-B.C., L.M.T., in her article, “Massage for Breast Cancer Patients,” “There is nothing good about a [cancer] diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy or radiation. It can also be difficult for the patient to deal with family issues, body image, finances, friends and do-gooders. Massage can help.”

3. Back Pain

Low-back pain was pegged as the number-one cause of disability worldwide in a 2014 study. According to the American Spinal Decompression Association, low-back pain affects up to 80 percent of people at some time. The prevalence of back pain could be why so much research has focused on easily accessible modalities—including massage—to lessen discomfort and stiffness.

For people suffering from back pain, massage has been found to reduce pain and improve range of motion; and when combined with ginger oil, both Swedish and Thai massage improved back pain as well.

4. Fibromyalgia

A hallmark of this rheumatic disease is painful pressure points throughout the body. Once considered psychosomatic in nature, fibromyalgia is now considered a verifiable condition that may be benefitted by massage therapy.

Research conducted in Spain and published in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that among 89 patients randomly assigned to a control or massage group, those who received massage experienced decreased pain intensity and sensitivity; better quality sleep; and lessened depressive symptoms.

5. Repetitive Stress Disorder

Your smartphone, pad, tablet and computer might have streamlined your life, but these digital devices could be wreaking havoc on your body at the same time. Repetitive stress disorder occurs when the same motion is repeated over and over again—whether on an assembly line or while texting on an iPhone.

“Anyone who has spent much time on a computer, cellphone, tablet or other advanced electronic device has surely experienced the discomfort of poor body mechanics and repetitive straining,” manual therapy specialist Rick Bates, L.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., C.F.T., told MASSAGE Magazine for the article, “The Text Neck Explosion—and Other Injuries of the Digital Age.” “These problems are not limited to the neck, as more and more people seek relief from shoulder, arms, wrists, hands, low-back and hip pain,” added Bates.

Massage improves muscle and joint function and can keep repetitive-motion injuries from developing. Specialties such as myofascial release, Rolfing and trigger-point therapy can address repetitive stress disorder in more depth

6. Stress

Work, money, health concerns—these and more can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. The real problem is in the cumulative effects stress can have on the mind and body. According to the American Institute of Stress, 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, while 73 percent of people regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.

Left unaddressed, stress can become a contributing cause of heart disease, depression, panic disorder and more, according to many health experts. Regular massage sessions increase feelings of relaxation and peace, and have been shown to decrease the body’s stress response. Nurses who received a 15-minute back massage once a week experienced a decrease in stress, for example; and adults age 60 and older experienced more stress relief from massage than from guided relaxation

7. Postnatal Depression

New moms might experience sleep disturbances and the stress that comes with being a parent. One study shows that massage improves sleep patterns in postpartum women.

According to pregnancy and postpartum massage expert Carole Osborne, C.M.T., who wrote on this topic for MASSAGE Magazine’s November print issue, “Many massage therapists report that as few as three to five well-timed sessions tend to improve depressed women’s mood, reduce worry and increase enjoyable mother-baby interactions … [and] [t]he few small studies of massage therapy and women with postpartum depression show those same promising results.”

Beyond receiving massage therapy, giving massage helps new mothers and fathers bond with their babies. Infant massage is a specialty in which a trained therapist teaches parents how to perform gentle strokes on their baby.

What Are You Waiting For?

There is no reason to suffer from stress, strain, discomfort or pain. Massage therapists offer a safe environment where clients relax and, more importantly, practice preventive care that can stave off or lessen the conditions noted above.

Although massage cannot prevent serious diseases and conditions such as cancer or fibromyalgia, by adding the treat of regular massage therapy to your life you can avoid being tricked into poor health by the conditions that massage can help with.

About the Author

Karen MenehanKaren Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. She has also served as MASSAGE Magazine’s editorial assistant, managing editor and editor. Menehan has reported and edited for additional publications and organizations, including Imagine Magazine, the Sacramento Bee newspaper and the LIVESTRONG Foundation.