In 2016 the Massage Therapy Foundation & American Massage Therapy Association jointly commissioned the Samueli Institute to perform and independent review of the current research on massage for pain management. After extensive review of the literature, the researchers confirmed the practical experience of massage therapists and clients. Massage Therapy relieves pain.
What this means for consumers
Now massage consumers can have even more confidence in their choice to use therapeutic massage for muscular pain and for chronic pain. As the number one reason people go to a primary care provider, pain is a major health concern. The medical community now has stronger reasoning for recommending massage as a means to manage pain to their patients. Although massage helps people in many other ways, it now has solid scientific backing as a safe and effective method of controlling pain.
What this means for the massage industry
This landmark study provides the massage industry with better credibility as a treatment option for pain management. It opens the door for more medical professionals to recommend massage to their patients. This has long-term potential to lead to more massage therapists working as a part of an integrated care team. Or, for the optimistic, even some increased opportunity for insurance to cover medically recommended massage. Some people also see massage as fitting in as an option for helping reduce opioid dependence by potentially leading to less reliance on medications for pain management. Furthermore, new massage research funding could follow this positive review.
More details on the pain management research
Having research independently reviewed and verified by an unaffiliated scientific organization signifies quality and integrity in the work. The Samueli Institute applies a rigorous academic approach to research in, among other things, complementary therapies. They work with the US Military, the medical community, and private businesses who have an interest in complementary and integrative approaches to wellness. For this meta-analysis, they formed a team comprised of researchers, massage therapists with a background in research, and organizational leaders with a background in research.
In order to form their conclusions, the research team began with thousands of articles and then used a systematic process to find the most relevant research. They then condensed the findings from 67 research articles on the effects of massage on pain levels and analyzed the data collectively. The research covered multiple different styles of massage, so it speaks to the efficacy of massage in general. It looked at pain management in multiple categories including chronic pain, fibromyalgia, headache, and muscle pain. It also covered quality of life. The researchers additionally looked at the effect of massage on activity, but found that there were not enough quality studies to make a determination.
Overall, based on the effectiveness and safety of massage therapy, the study recommended the use of massage as a way to manage pain.
Read the full study in the journal Pain Medicine.