Are there real medical benefits to remedial massage?

For over 5,000 years, massage has been seen as a form of medical treatment. Modern massage is more often seen as a way to relax and destress, but many practitioners claim that remedial massage has certain health benefits, particularly in the area of chronic pain management, when done right and by a professional who has completed a massage training course in Vancouver.

Two clinical trials from the The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) concluded that massage may be helpful in relieving chronic lower-back pain and chronic neck pain, respectively. Additionally, a 2012 NCCIH-funded study showed that massage may improve pain from osteoarthritis of the knee. However, a meta-analysis of studies from 1996-2006 showed that reports of efficacy across multiple forms of chronic pain were varied and there were no consistent long-term benefits for patients with fibromyalgia.

It’s also speculated that remedial massage may lessen symptoms of certain mental health disorders. In 2010 a meta-analysis of 17 clinical trials showed positive results of massage in the treatment of depression, and a separate 2012 NCCIH-funded trial correlated brief yoga and massage sessions with a decrease in depression, anxiety, and pain in pregnant women. However, a 2013 research review found the evidence for massage therapy as a treatment for depression in pregnant women to be insufficient, and a 2010 NCCIH-funded clinical trial showed that massage therapy was no more effective at reducing symptoms of generalized anxienty disorder than relaxation and deep breathing techniques.

As of right now, most data regarding remedial massage is preliminary or shows mixed levels of effectivity, and there is little definitive data showing the mechanisms by which remedial massage could create a long-term analgesic effect. While remedial massage may reduce pain and improve quality of life for certain patients, there is no evidence showing remedial massage as a cure for any disease or condition. And although the risks for seeking remedial massage therapy are low (if working with a trained professional) it should not be seen as a substitute for other forms of medical treatment.

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