In a recent study, researchers chose to focus not on the benefits of receiving a massage, but rather on the benefits of giving one. These researchers discovered massage therapists experience a significant decrease in subjective anxiety after providing a one-hour Swedish massage.
The study, “The Benefits of Giving a Massage on the Mental State of Massage Therapists: A Randomized, Controlled Trial,” involved 22 massage students in their final semester of massage school. These students ranged in age from 18 to 65 years and were included if they were mentally and physically healthy.
Participants in the study were randomly assigned to either the experimental group or control group. The 11 subjects in the experimental group provided one one-hour Swedish massage to a client in the massage school’s clinic. The 11 subjects in the control group spent one hour doing normal daily activities in the school’s student lounge.
“The normal daily activities of these massage students (who were in the phase of their education in which they were actively seeing clients) involved coming in at the start of a shift and sitting in the student lounge to wait for walk-in clients,” state the study’s authors. “Therefore, some of these students were assigned a massage (a normal activity) and some of these students were not assigned a massage (also a normal activity).
“Due to the normality of these activities,” the study’s authors continued, “it is believed that all participants were blind to group allocation for the duration of their participation in the study.”
None of the subjects in either group gave a massage the day of the study, prior to the start of the intervention period, and none of them participated in any touch training that day either.
The main outcome measure for this study was Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS), which comprises three self-report scales that measure the states of depression, anxiety and stress. Subjects filled out these surveys before and after the one-hour intervention period.
Results of the research revealed that the students who gave massage experienced a statistically significant decrease in subjective anxiety, as compared to those in the control group who did not provide massage. No significant differences were detected on the other DASS measures.
“The results of this study suggest that the giver of a massage, the massage therapist, also receives a therapeutic benefit from the experience, in the form of reduced subjective anxiety,” the study’s authors conclude. “The difference compared with a no-intervention control group was large and clinically relevant.”
Authors: Anne M. Jensen, D.C., Adaikalavan Ramasamy, Ph.D., Judith Hotek, Brian Roel and Drew Riffe.
Sources: Department of Primary Care and Department of Continuing Professional Development, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; Research Institute, Department of Information Systems and School of Massage Therapy, Parker University, Dallas, Texas; Respiratory Epidemiology and Public Health, and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom; Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, King’s College, London, United Kingdom. Originally published in 2012 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(12).