Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression may be alleviated with massage therapy

Support National Massage Therapy Awareness Week with Massage Research, Benefits, MASSAGE MagazineEvanston, IL. In celebration of National Massage Therapy Awareness Week (NMTAW), held from Oct. 20 to Oct. 26, 2013, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has compiled research showing the benefits of massage therapy on symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. 

The AMTA recently affirmed the associated benefits of massage and mental health, through a position statement on Massage Therapy for Anxiety, which states massage therapy can assist in reducing the symptoms of anxiety.

Following are some recent research findings which highlight the role of massage therapy in mental health and wellness. View AMTA’s Research Roundup Volume 4 online at

Massage therapy for the treatment of depression in individuals with HIV

Research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (1) indicates massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression for individuals with HIV disease. The study lasted eight weeks, and results show massage significantly reduced the severity of depression beginning at week four and continuing at weeks six and eight. AMTA President Winona Bontrager says of the study, “This research suggests that regular therapeutic massage could be a useful tool in the integrated treatment of depression for patients with HIV.”

Massage therapy to reduce anxiety in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy

Research published in Applied Nursing Research[2] shows that back massage given during chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety and acute fatigue. “This research demonstrates the potential value of massage therapy within the full cancer treatment spectrum, particularly during the often mentally and physically exhausting chemotherapy process,” says Bontrager.

Massage therapy for reduced anxiety and depression in military veterans

Research published in Military Medicine[3] reports that military veterans indicated significant reductions in ratings of anxiety, worry, depression and physical pain after massage. Analysis also suggests declining levels of tension and irritability following massage. This pilot study was a self-directed program of integrative therapies for National Guard personnel to support reintegration and resilience after return from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Massage therapy for nurses to reduce work-related stress

Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice[4] shows that massage for nurses during work hours can help to reduce stress and related symptoms, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. “This study affirms the important role massage therapy can play in the work setting, in this case to ease stress for health care providers who, in turn, can better provide optimal patient care,” says Bontrager.

Previous research roundups from AMTA

Volume 1 highlights the growing body of evidence that shows massage therapy can be effective for a variety of health conditions, including:

  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Inflammation after exercise
  • Chronic low-back pain
  • Fibromyalgia

Volume 2 outlines medical research that suggests the benefits of massage therapy, including the role it can play in overall health and well-being in people of all ages, including:

  • Enhanced immune function in preterm infants
  • Decreased blood pressure and improved stability in older persons
  • Reduced stress and anxiety in cancer patients

Volume 3 contains research that suggests massage therapy can be a helpful aid for manually controlling pain in people suffering from certain conditions, including:

  • Metastatic cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Post-cardiac surgery pain

Massage therapy facts

Results from AMTA’s 17th annual consumer survey, conducted in August 2013, reveal more Americans are incorporating massage therapy into their regular health and wellness regimens to assist with medical conditions;

  • 88 percent of individuals view massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness
  • 88 percent of individuals believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain
  • 75 percent of consumers surveyed claim that their primary reason for receiving a massage was medical (43 percent) or stress (32 percent) related
  • 53 percent of people say their doctor has recommended they get a massage

The AMTA Find a Massage Therapist® free national locator service is available at This locator allows people to find professional members of AMTA, who meet both association qualifications and state/local requirements to practice.

About AMTA

The American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA®) is a professional association of more than 56,000 members. AMTA professional members have demonstrated a level of skill and knowledge through education and/or testing and must meet continuing education requirements to retain membership. AMTA provides information about massage therapy to the public and works to improve the professional climate for massage therapists.