The Scientific Benefits of Massage Therapy: What the Research Says

Massage therapy has been around for centuries, and its purported benefits have been studied for a variety of conditions. New research from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has confirmed the scientific benefits of massage, showing that it can improve vascular function in people who don't exercise. This suggests that everyone can reap the rewards of massage therapy, regardless of their level of physical activity. Studies have found that massage therapy can reduce pain in the lower back, neck, shoulder, head and even osteoarthritis.

It can also help with pain relief in people with cancer, autoimmune disorders and chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. In addition to pain relief, users report that massage improves overall health, decision-making skills, work performance and increases energy and concentration. It also improves memory and blood circulation in the body. At the cellular level, massage therapy helps the body heal.

Researchers performed blood and muscle tests on people before and after strenuous training; one group received massage therapy after exercise and the other group did not. The results showed an increase in a gene responsible for the development of mitochondria, which are known for cell growth and energy production. Lifting and kneading muscle tissue (a common Swedish and deep tissue technique) has also been shown to “turn off” genes associated with inflammation. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has made massage therapy a major research priority.

While skeptics may give massage more credit than it deserves, there is evidence that it can improve health. Studies have shown that something as simple as a 10-minute muscle massage after a workout can reduce pain by up to 30 percent. Most massages are Swedish massages, which focus mainly on lubricated muscle kneading and some other techniques. Doctors used to treat massage therapy as something they didn't discourage but didn't necessarily prescribe either.

However, recent research has shown that massage can help protect the immune system's natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and helps prevent tumor growth. Overall, massage therapy has been scientifically proven to have many benefits for physical and mental health. It can reduce pain, improve overall health, increase energy levels and even protect the immune system. Therefore, it is important to consult with a qualified professional before beginning any type of massage therapy.

Mark Szymonik
Mark Szymonik

Proud pop culture maven. Infuriatingly humble musicaholic. Total pop culture specialist. Extreme travel aficionado. Passionate coffee specialist.