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Therapeutic Massage Research Findings

 by: P. Sidney Parker

Research on massage therapy, and its benefits, continues to show that it reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases endorphins, and the circulation of blood and lymph fluids. Research has also shown that therapeutic massage relaxes muscles, and improves range of motion (ROI).

While massage does not increase muscle strength, massage can increase muscle tone. Therapeutic massage also helps the body's homostatic functions thereby decreasing the amount of time needed to recover after exercise or injury which is often caused by muscle stiffness (inflexibility). Massage helps in keeping the proper amount of fluid circulating between muscle fibers, and in rehydrating dehydrated fibers.

Joan Borysenko (, a medical scientist, licensed clinical psychologist, and cofounder of the Mind/Body Clinic at Harvard Medical School, had this to say when interviewed by the Massage Journal, in 1999:

"Often times people are stressed in our culture. Stress-related disorders make up between 80-and-90 percent of the ailments that bring people to family-practice physicians. What they require is someone to listen, someone to touch them, someone to care. That does not exist in modern medicine.

One of the complaints heard frequently is that physicians don't touch their patients any more. Touch just isn't there. Years ago massage was a big part of nursing. There was so much care, so much touch, so much goodness conveyed through massage. Now nurses for the most part are as busy as physicians. They're writing charts, dealing with insurance notes, they're doing procedures and often there is no room for massage any more.

I believe massage therapy is absolutely key in the healing process not only in the hospital environment but because it relieves stress, it is obviously foundational in the healing process any time and anywhere."

In the past century research on the benefits massage therapy has yeilded some very encouraging findings.

There is research showing that Office workers felt less stress, experienced heightened alertness and increased performance, when getting regular massage sessions. Some of the other findings from research on the benefits of massage therapy are:

  • University students, in New Jersey, massaged before an exam showed a significant decrease in anxiety and respiration rates. It was also found they had a measurable increase their white blood cell count and in the production of T-cells so important to the immune system.

    After receiving therapeutic massage a group of cancer patients experienced reduced pain and anxiety.

    An university study found that mothers who had recently suffered the death of a child, experienced reduced levels of depression after receiving therapeutic massage.

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted studies that found therapeutic massage was beneficial in improving weight gain in HIV infants.

  • Reseachers at the Touch Research Institute (University of Miami) found therapeutic massage helpful in reducing blood pressure. The same research has found that therapeutic massage helps in reducing pain in migraine sufferers.

Some of the other benefits of therapeutic massage are:

  • The skin
    • Improves tone and elasticity

      Improves skin nourishment

    • Aids in normalizing glandular functions

    Skeletal system (Myofascial)
    • Relieves stiff joints

    • Assists in proper body alignment

    Muscular system
    • Reduces fibrosis and adhesions in fibers

      Assists in maintaining flexibity

      Can relax or stimulate fibers

    • Relieves tension, and stiffness

    Circulatory system
    • Improves cell nutrition

      Improves cell oxygen supply

    • Decreases blood pressure

    Nervous system
    • Stimulates nerves

      Relieves insomnia

    • Promotes a state of well-being

    Lymphatic system
    • Increases circulation

    • Flushes out toxins and metabolic wastes

  • Athletes
    • Improves flexibility and ROI

      Relieves tight and sore muscles

    • Decreases recovery time after exercise or injury

    For more information on the benefits of therapeutic massage, visit the American Massage Therapy Association's web site at and my Holistic Health Therapy web site at

About The Author

P. Sidney Parker is a Holistic Health Therapist, with a practice in Phillipsburg, NJ which specializes in massage therapy and fitness training. For more info please visit or

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Mountain State School of Massage


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