Based on the evidence, massage therapy can provide significant improvement for pain, anxiety and health-related quality of life for those looking to manage their pain.
This is the conclusion of a collaborative meta-analysis of research on massage therapy for pain conducted by the Samueli Institute and commissioned by the Massage Therapy Foundation, with support from the American Massage Therapy Association. The first part of the three-part review and analysis has been published online by the journal Pain Medicine.
Pain is a major public health concern, affecting approximately 100 million Americans.1 It is currently recognized as the most compelling reason for an individual to seek medical attention, and accounts for approximately 80 percent of physician visits.2,3
Not only are individuals affected, but also their families, the national economy and health systems. It is estimated that chronic pain accounts for approximately $600 billion in annual health care expenditures and lost productivity.3,4 This annual cost is greater than the cost of other national priority health conditions, highlighting the significant economic burden of pain.
Based on the evidence, massage therapy, compared to no treatment, should be strongly recommended as a pain management option. Massage therapy is conditionally recommended for reducing pain, compared to other sham or active comparators, and improving mood and health-related quality of life, compared to other active comparators.5
Pain is multi-dimensional and may be better addressed through an integrative approach. Massage therapy is commonly used among people seeking pain management and research has generally supported its use. But, until now there has been no published, rigorous review of the available research and evidence for its efficacy for people with various types of pain.