Evidence For Registered Massage Therapy

There is a growing body of research supporting the benefits of massage therapy. A sample of the research available is provided below. For more massage therapy research information visit the Massage Therapists’ Association of British Columbia website.



Massage therapy and frequency of chronic tension headaches

C Quinn.DC, Chandler C, Moraska A. AmJ Public Health. 2000 Oct,92(10):1657•61.

The effect of massage therapy on chronic non-migraine headache was investigated. The muscle­ specific massage therapy technique used in this study has the potential to be a functional, non­ pharmaceutical drug intervention for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headache.


Appraisal of treatment of the trigger points associated with relaxation to treat chronic headache in the adult. Relationship with anxiety and stress adaptation strategies

Goffaux-Dogniez C, et al.,Encephala. 2003 Sep-Oct;29(5):3n-90

Treatment by relaxation allows for a perceived increase in control of symptoms by the sufferer. Consequently, it reduces anxiety, improves the quality of life and the behavioral responses to stress. In turn, the treatment improves the long-term prognosis for the headaches as well as the health of the sufferer in general.


Back Pain


Lower back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy

Hemandez-Reif M, Field T,Krasnegor J,Theakslon H., lnt J Neurosci. 2001;106(3-4):131-45.

Massage therapy is effective in reducing pain, stress hormones and symptoms associated with chronic low back pain.


Spinal cord patients benefit from massage therapy

Diego MA,Field T, Hemandez-Reif M,Hart S,Brucker B, Field T, Burman 1.,lnt J Neuroscl.2002 Feb;112(2):133•42.

This study assessed the effects of massage therapy on depression, functionality, upper body muscle strength and range of motion on spinal cord injury patients. Although both the massage and exercise group appeared to benefit from treatment, only the massage group showed lower anxiety and depression scores, and significantly increased their muscle strength and wrist range of motion.


A review of the evidence for the effectiveness, safety, and cost effectiveness of acupuncture, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation for back pain

Daniel C. Cherkin et al, Annals of Internal Medicine 2003, 138:898-906.

The study showed that massage therapy was more effective and also more cost-effective in the treatment of low back pain, than acupuncture or spinal manipulation.


General Pain

Pain and tension are reduced among hospital nurses after on-site massage treatments: a pilot study

Katz J,WowkA, Culp D, Wakeling H.J Perianesth,Nurs.1999 Jun;14(3):128•33.

The results of this pilot study support the feasibility of an eight-session, workplace-based, massage therapy program for pain and tension experienced by nurses working in a large teaching hospital.


Shoulder Pain

A trial Into the effectiveness of soft tissue massage in the treatment of shoulder pain

van den Dolder PA,Roberts DL,Aust J Physlother. 2003;49(3):183-8.


A randomised controlled trial investigated the effects of soft tissue massage on range of motion, reported pain and reported function in patients with shoulder pain. The study concluded that soft tissue massage around the shoulder is effective in improving range of motion, pain and function in patients with shoulder pain.




Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: benefits from massage therapy

T Field, M Hernandez-Rei,! S Seligman,J Krasnegor, W Sunshine,R Rivas-Chacon, S Schanberg and C Kuhn,Journal of Pediatric Psychiatry, Vol 22, 607-617.


Studied children with mild to moderate juvenile rheumatoid arthritis who were massaged by their parents 15 minutes a day for 30 days (and a control group engaged in relaxation therapy).The children’s anxiety and stress hormone (cortisol) levels were Immediately decreased by the massage, and over the 30-day period their pain decreased on self-reports, parent reports, and their physician’s assessment of pain (both incidence and severity)and pain-limiting activities.



Massage therapy for symptom control: outcome study at a major cancer centre

Cassileth BR, Vickers AJ., J Pain Symptom Manage.2004 Sep;28(3):244-9.

Over a three-year period, 1,290 patients were treated. Symptom scores were reduced by approximately 50%, even for patients reporting high baseline scores. Outpatients improved about 10% more than inpatients. Benefits persisted, with outpatients experiencing no return toward baseline scores throughout the duration of 48-hour follow-up. These data indicate that massage therapy is associated with substantive improvement in cancer patients’ symptom scores.



Effects of massage on pain and anxiety during labour: a randomized controlled trial in Taiwan

Chang MY,Wang SY,Chen CH.,J Arfo/ Nurs.2002 Apr,38(1):68-73

A randomized controlled study was conducted between September 1999 and January 2000. Sixty primiparous women expected to have a normal childbirth at a regional hospital in southern Taiwan were randomly assigned to either the experimental (n=30) or the control (n=30) group. The experimental group received massage intervention whereas the control group did not. Findings suggest that massage is a cost-effective nursing intervention that can decrease pain and anxiety during labour, and partners’ participation in massage can positively influence the quality of women’s birth experiences.


Jaw Disorder

Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for temporomandibular disorders

J Orofac Pain. 2003 Summer;17(3):224-3,DeBar LL,Vuckovic N, Schneider J,Ritenbaugh C.

This study examines the use of CAM therapies among patients with temporomandibular disorders (TMD).The researcher’s surveyed 192 patients with documented TMD as part of a larger project on the effectiveness of various CAM modalities for TMD patients. Massage was rated as the most frequent and among the most satisfactory and helpful. In general, respondents who used CAM for their TMD reported being most satisfied with the’ hands on’ CAM therapies (massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care).



The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness

J E Hilbert,G A Sforzo and T Swensen, Br J Sports Med 2003; 37:72•75.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the physiological and psychological effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).The intensity of soreness, however, was significantly lower in the massage group relative to the control group at 48 hours post-exercise (p < 0.05).

Manual Lymph Drainage in Head-Neck Tumors 

German publication Author: Preisler VK.,Hagan A,Hoopa F, Laryngerhinooteiogis:1998 Apr.,77.4.


This study assessed the efficacy of lymphatic drainage treatment for patients with secondary lymphedema of the head and neck. This condition can develop as a result of the obstruction of lymphatic channels following the surgical removal of lymph nodes and

fibrosis due to irradiation. This can be treated with manual lymphatic drainage. In a retrospective study, 191 patients treated for head and neck cancer were questioned on the occurrence of lymphedema. One hundred patients received lymphatic drainage treatment, whereas 91 patients belonged to the group without lymph drainage therapy.

The study reported that lymph drainage therapy improved the quality of life for patients after cancer therapy. The study also found that the treatment, which followed oncological therapy, was beneficial in that it did not increase the rate of local recurrences.


Importance of Touch in Treatment

Nelson 0.Emotion connected to touch, study finds. Link in limbic brain. Natiol)alPost 2002. Touch Institute – Florida -Dr.Tiftany Field.(C:MTA Journal,1993).

Among more than 30 studies underway or completed is one examining the effects of massage on immune function in AIDS; HIV-positive males showed increased levels of serotonin and a reduction in stress and anxiety after receiving 45-minute massage treatments, five times a week for one month.

Premature infants of cocaine addicted mothers have been found to have an increase in their weight, a decrease in irritability and display more mature motor behaviours after receiving 15-minute massages three times a day for ten days.

Depressed children with behavioural difficulties have become less anxious, have slept better and have shown reduced levels of cortisol and norepinephrine after a month of massage three times a week.

A study with burn victims looked at reducing anxiety by hands-on attention to uninjured areas, and also examined the possibility of alleviation of itching by increasing circulation through massage.

The Massage Therapists’ Association of B.C. (MTABC) has worked with the provincial government and the Canadian Research Institute for Pain and Disability (CRIPD) to develop diagnostic assessment and treatment protocols (DAPs).These protocols are derived from evidence-based research and serve as clinical guidelines for RMTs to work with patients to design an effective treatment plan. The RMTs of B.C. are currently using these DAPs for neck and low back pain and injuries. In the near future, there will be diagnostic and treatment guidelines for every region of the body.

The Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, the B.C. Arthritis Society and CRIPD have also worked with the MTABC to develop assessment and treatment protocols for osteoarthritis (OA). Medical practitioners can use these protocols in identifying and referring their patients to appropriate massage therapy treatments tor arthritis. RMTs will use the protocols to assess, diagnose and design an effective individual treatment plan for those affected with OA. This will allow British Coiumbians with arthritis to live well and continue their active lifestyles.










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