Many types of massage offer benefit beyond simple relaxation. Here are just a few of the health problems that may benefit from massage. Ask your doctor before using massage for any health condition, though.
- Back pain. More than one study has shown the effectiveness of massage therapy for back pain.
- Headache. Another type of pain — headache — also responds to massage therapy. Some studies suggest that massage therapy can reduce the number of migraines a person has and also improve sleep.
- Osteoarthritis. In the first clinical trial looking at the effectiveness of Swedish massage for knee osteoarthritis, participants who received a one-hour massage either one or two times a week had improvements in pain, stiffness, and function. The control group had no such change.
- Cancer. Used as a complement to traditional, Western medicine, massage can promote relaxation and reduce cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea, or depression, for example, or improve the function of your immune system. However, there are specific areas that a massage therapist should avoid in a cancer patient, as well as times when massage should be avoided altogether. Talk to your doctor before getting massage therapy if you have cancer.
- Depression. A review of 17 clinical trials found that massage therapy may help reduce depression. But for generalized anxiety disorder, it was no more effective than providing a calming environment and deep breathing exercises.