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Massage research
Touch point

Researchers at RMIT, Australia, highlight the many benefits of massage in a new study on 740 existing papers

By Katie Barnes | Published in Spa Business 2012 issue 3


Research released last November is another step towards the scientific proof of just how powerful massage can be in treating a myriad of ailments safely and effectively. In fact, it suggested that health professionals, such as GPs and nurses, should be more active in including massages as part of treatment plans for illnesses ranging from back pains to stress and chronic conditions.

“Sadly, the majority of people in western populations, including doctors, have never experienced a professional massage,” says Professor Marc Cohen, from Australia’s RMIT University (see sb08/4 p44). “This presents an opportunity for spas to expand into vast new markets. Doctors need to become more educated about spa services and spas need to change their image from being providers of pampering and luxury to providers of an effective and essential therapeutic service.”

multiple benefits
The study, which was commissioned by the Australian Association of Massage Therapy (AAMT) and conducted by RMIT University, is a review of 740 existing academic research papers focused on the therapeutic benefits of massage. The mix of Australian and international papers, which were published between 1978 and 2008, included a variety of systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials, comparative studies, case-series/studies and cross-sectional studies.

A number of massage disciplines were covered including acupressure, Bowen therapy, lymphatic drainage, myofascial release (see sb07/2 p78), reflexology, rolfing, Swedish massage, sports massage, infant massage, tui na and trigger point therapies.

The review found that there was moderate to strong evidence (grade a and b) to support massage therapy in six out of 28 conditions. It was found to be most effective in treating nausea and vomiting, anxiety, chronic disease management – especially lower back pain – delayed onset muscle soreness and pulmonary function.

Lead researcher, Dr Kenny Ng says it was also particularly helpful in relieving stress and aiding relaxation, as well as supporting “the wellbeing of patients with chronic and terminal diseases such as cancer”.

what’s next?
Tricia Hughes, chief executive of AAMT, says: “There’s a growing body of research supporting massage therapy as being an evidence-based therapeutic modality. We certainly hope this report leads the way for future research in the field of massage therapy. This groundwork provides remedial massage therapists, complementary and alternative medicine practitioners and the broader allied health community with a basis to pursue evidence-based practice.”

The promising benefits of massage therapy for infants and people with specific health conditions were highlighted as two areas to further explore. It was also suggested that more research is required to determine the benefits of massage in people with depression and post-natal depression, labour pain, fibromyalgia, premenstrual syndrome, urinary symptoms in multiple sclerosis, myofascial pain and osteoarthritis in the knee.

Cohen adds: “There’s also a need to explore the economic benefits – reduced healthcare costs and increased industrial productivity – of providing massage services to people experiencing significant stress and other chronic conditions.”

*Dr Ng, K & Professor Cohen, M. The Effectiveness of Massage Therapy: A Summary of Evidence-Based Research. RMIT University, Australia, November 2011

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Massage research
Touch point

Researchers at RMIT, Australia, highlight the many benefits of massage in a new study on 740 existing papers

By Katie Barnes | Published in Spa Business 2012 issue 3


Research released last November is another step towards the scientific proof of just how powerful massage can be in treating a myriad of ailments safely and effectively. In fact, it suggested that health professionals, such as GPs and nurses, should be more active in including massages as part of treatment plans for illnesses ranging from back pains to stress and chronic conditions.

“Sadly, the majority of people in western populations, including doctors, have never experienced a professional massage,” says Professor Marc Cohen, from Australia’s RMIT University (see sb08/4 p44). “This presents an opportunity for spas to expand into vast new markets. Doctors need to become more educated about spa services and spas need to change their image from being providers of pampering and luxury to providers of an effective and essential therapeutic service.”

multiple benefits
The study, which was commissioned by the Australian Association of Massage Therapy (AAMT) and conducted by RMIT University, is a review of 740 existing academic research papers focused on the therapeutic benefits of massage. The mix of Australian and international papers, which were published between 1978 and 2008, included a variety of systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials, comparative studies, case-series/studies and cross-sectional studies.

A number of massage disciplines were covered including acupressure, Bowen therapy, lymphatic drainage, myofascial release (see sb07/2 p78), reflexology, rolfing, Swedish massage, sports massage, infant massage, tui na and trigger point therapies.

The review found that there was moderate to strong evidence (grade a and b) to support massage therapy in six out of 28 conditions. It was found to be most effective in treating nausea and vomiting, anxiety, chronic disease management – especially lower back pain – delayed onset muscle soreness and pulmonary function.

Lead researcher, Dr Kenny Ng says it was also particularly helpful in relieving stress and aiding relaxation, as well as supporting “the wellbeing of patients with chronic and terminal diseases such as cancer”.

what’s next?
Tricia Hughes, chief executive of AAMT, says: “There’s a growing body of research supporting massage therapy as being an evidence-based therapeutic modality. We certainly hope this report leads the way for future research in the field of massage therapy. This groundwork provides remedial massage therapists, complementary and alternative medicine practitioners and the broader allied health community with a basis to pursue evidence-based practice.”

The promising benefits of massage therapy for infants and people with specific health conditions were highlighted as two areas to further explore. It was also suggested that more research is required to determine the benefits of massage in people with depression and post-natal depression, labour pain, fibromyalgia, premenstrual syndrome, urinary symptoms in multiple sclerosis, myofascial pain and osteoarthritis in the knee.

Cohen adds: “There’s also a need to explore the economic benefits – reduced healthcare costs and increased industrial productivity – of providing massage services to people experiencing significant stress and other chronic conditions.”

*Dr Ng, K & Professor Cohen, M. The Effectiveness of Massage Therapy: A Summary of Evidence-Based Research. RMIT University, Australia, November 2011

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