Massage Can Aid in Pain Relief

Research indicates that massage therapy can help with pain relief.

Position Statement

It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that massage can aid in pain relief.

Background Information

  • More than one-quarter of Americans (26%) age 20 years and over - or, an estimated 76.5 million Americans - report that they have had a problem with pain of any sort that persisted for more than 24 hours in duration. [NOTE: this number does not account for acute pain].
  • Adults age 45-64 years were the most likely to report pain lasting more than 24 hours (30%). Twenty-five percent (25%) of young adults age 20-44 reported pain, and adults age 65 and over were the least likely to report pain (21%).
  • More women (27.1%) than men (24.4%) reported that they were in pain 1

Pain affects the life, quality of life, and work of the American public.2 In many people, pain medications can have unpleasant side effects.3 Considering the number of people reporting pain and its effects on quality of life, and with pain medications not necessarily being the best option, the American public has become interested in examining other methods of pain relief. In the CDC’s 2007 survey of CAM therapies the top four reasons adults used CAM therapies were to treat pain including back pain or problems, neck pain or problems, joint pain or stiffness/other joint condition, arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions.The most prevalent reason for children to use CAM therapies is also due to pain, back/neck pain to be specific.4

Research indicates that massage can reduce pain and pain intensity in patients with metastatic bone pain on an immediate, intermediate and long term time frame.5 Massage can reduce the incidence and frequency associated with headache pain.Massage relieves postoperative pain . 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 Massage reduced back and leg pain in pregnant women.18 Massage decreased pain, distress, tension, and anxiety in children and adolescents with chronic pain.19 Massage is recommended for children with cancer and “growing pains”.20, 21 Massage relieves chronic pain, chronic pain of moderate to severe intensity and those with myalgia.22, 23, 24 Massage reduces pain and improved the quality of life for adult cancer patients.25, 26 Massage improves subjective perception of and function for those with carpal tunnel syndrome.27 Massage has a positive effect on lower back pain.28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Massage reduces pain for those with distal radial trauma and those receiving needle insertions.34, 35


1. National Center for Health Statistics (2006). Health, United States, (2006): with chartbook on trends in the health of Americans with special feature on pain. Table 61. Hyattsville, MD: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved April 7, 2007, from Centers for Disease Control Web site.
2. Strine T.W., Hootman J.M., Chapman D.P., Okoro C.A., Balluz L. (2005). Health-related quality of life, health risk behaviors, and disability among adults with pain-related activity difficulty. Am J Public Health, 95(11), 2042–2048.
3. Franz, J. (2004). Post-Surgical Pain. In Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery. Retrieved April 8, 2009, from Healthline Web site.
4. Barnes, P.M., Bloom, B., Nahin, R. (2008). Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007, CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from Centers for Disease Control Web site:
5. Jane, S.W., Wilkie, D.J., Gallucci, B.B., Beaton, R.D., Huang, H.Y., (2008). Effects of a Full-Body Massage on Pain Intensity, Anxiety, and Physiological Relaxation in Taiwanese Patients with Metastatic Bone Pain: A Pilot Study. J Pain Symptom Manage. 37(4):754-63.
6. Moraska, A., Chandler, C.(2008). Changes in Clinical Parameters in Patients with Tension-type Headache Following Massage Therapy: A Pilot Study. J Man Manip Ther. 16(2), 106-12.
7. Mitchinson, A.R., Kim, H.M., Rosenberg, J.M., Geisser, M., Kirsh, M., Cikrit, D., Hinshaw, D.B. (2007). Acute postoperative pain management using massage as an adjuvant therapy: a randomized trial. Arch Surg. 142(12), 1158-67.
8. Mehling, W.E., Jacobs, B., Acree, M., Wilson, L., Bostrom, A., West, J., Acquah, J., Burns, B., Chapman, J., Hecht, F.M. (2007). Symptom management with massage and acupuncture in postoperative cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial. J Pain Symptom Manage. 33(3), 258-66.
9. Kshettry, V.R., Carole, L.F., Henly, S.J., Sendelbach, S., Kummer, B. (2006). Complementary alternative medical therapies for heart surgery patients: feasibility, safety, and impact. Ann Thorac Surg. 81(1), 201
10.Chen, H.M., Chang, F.Y., Hsu, C.T. (2005). Effect of acupressure on nausea, vomiting, anxiety and pain among post-cesarean section women in Taiwan. Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 21(8), 341-50.
11. Wang, H.L., Keck, J.F. (2004). Foot and hand massage as an intervention for postoperative pain. Pain Manag Nurs. 5(2), 59-65.
12. Piotrowski, M.M., Paterson, C., Mitchinson, A., Kim, H.M., Kirsh, M., Hinshaw, D.B. (2003). Massage as adjuvant therapy in the management of acute postoperative pain: a preliminary study in men. J Am Coll Surg. 197(6), 1037-46.
13.Taylor, A.G., Galper, D.I., Taylor, P., Rice, L.W., Andersen, W., Irvin, W., Wang, X.Q., Harrell, F.E. Jr. (2003). Effects of adjunctive Swedish massage and vibration therapy on short-term postoperative outcomes: a randomized, controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 9(1), 77-89.
14. Le Blanc-Louvry, I., Costaglioli, B., Boulon, C., Leroi, A.M., Ducrotte, P. (2002). Does mechanical massage of the abdominal wall after colectomy reduce postoperative pain and shorten the duration of ileus? Results of a randomized study. J Gastrointest Surg. 6(1), 43-9.
15. Hattan, J., King, L., Griffiths, P. (2002). The impact of foot massage and guided relaxation following cardiac surgery: a randomized controlled trial. J Adv Nurs. 37(2), 199-207.
16. Hulme, J., Waterman, H., Hillier, V.F. (1999). The effect of foot massage on patients' perception of care following laparoscopic sterilization as day case patients. J Adv Nurs. 30(2), 460-8.
17. Nixon, M., Teschendorff, J., Finney, J., Karnilowicz, W. (1997). Expanding the nursing repertoire: the effect of massage on post-operative pain. Aust J Adv Nurs. 14(3), 21-6.
18. Field, T., Figueiredo, B., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Deeds, O., Ascencio, A. (2008). Massage therapy reduces pain in pregnant women, alleviates prenatal depression in both parents and improves their relationships., J Bodyw Mov Ther. 12(2), 146-50.
19. Suresh, S., Wang, S., Porfyris, S., Kamasinski-Sol, R., Steinhorn, D.M. (2008). Massage therapy in outpatient pediatric chronic pain patients: do they facilitate significant reductions in levels of distress, pain, tension, discomfort, and mood alterations?, Paediatr Anaesth. 18(9), 884-7.
20. Hughes, D., Ladas, E., Rooney, D., Kelly, K. (2008). Massage therapy as a supportive care intervention for children with cancer, Oncol Nurs Forum. 35(3), 431-42.
21. Lowe, R.M., Hashkes, P.J. (2008). Growing pains: a noninflammatory pain syndrome of early childhood. Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 4(10), 542-9.
22. Walach, H., Güthlin, C., König, M. (2003). Efficacy of massage therapy in chronic pain: a pragmatic randomized trial. J Altern Complement Med. 9(6), 837-46.
23. Seers, K., Crichton, N., Martin, J., Coulson, K., Carroll, D. (2008). A randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a single session of nurse administered massage for short term relief of chronic non-malignant pain. BMC Nurs. 7, 10.
24. Frey Law, L.A., Evans, S., Knudtson, J. Nus, S., Scholl, K., Sluka, K.A. (2008). Massage reduces pain perception and hyperalgesia in experimental muscle pain: a randomized, controlled trial. J Pain. 9(8), 714-21.
25. Currin, J., Meister, E.A. (2008).  A hospital-based intervention using massage to reduce distress among oncology patients. Cancer Nurs. 31(3), 214-21.
26. Sagar, S.M., Dryden, T., Wong, R.K. (2007). Massage therapy for cancer patients: a reciprocal relationship between body and mind. Curr Oncol. 14(2), 45-56
27. Moraska, A., Chandler, C., Edmiston-Schaetzel, A., Franklin, G., Calenda, E.L., Enebo, B. (2008). Comparison of a targeted and general massage protocol on strength, function, and symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 14(3), 259-67.
28. Quinn, F., Hughes, C.M., Baxter, G.D. (2008). Reflexology in the management of low back pain: a pilot randomised controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 16(1), 3-8.
29. Bell, J. (2008). Massage therapy helps to increase range of motion, decrease pain and assist in healing a client with low back pain and sciatica symptoms. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 12(3), 281-9.
30. Hsieh, L.L., Kuo, C.H., Lee, L.H., Yen, A.M., Chien, K.L., Chen, T.H. (2006). Treatment of low back pain by acupressure and physical therapy: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 332(7543), 696-700.
31. Dryden, T., Baskwill, A., Preyde, M. (2004). Massage therapy for the orthopaedic patient: a review. Orthop Nurs. 23(5), 327-32.
32. Brady, L.H., Henry, K., Luth, J.F. 2nd, Casper-Bruett, K.K. (2001). The effects of shiatsu on lower back pain. J Holist Nurs. 19(1), 57-70.
33. Cherkin, D.C., Eisenberg, D., Sherman, K.J., Barlow, W., Kaptchuk, T.J., Street, J., Deyo, R.A. (2001). Randomized trial comparing traditional Chinese medical acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and self-care education for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 161(8), 1081-8.
34. Lang, T., Hager, H., Funovits, V., Barker, R., Steinlechner, B., Hoerauf, K., Kober, A. (2007). Prehospital analgesia with acupressure at the Baihui and Hegu points in patients with radial fractures: a prospective, randomized, double-blind trial. Am J Emerg Med. 25(8), 887-93.
35. Arai, Y.C., Ushida, T., Osuga, T., Matsubara, T., Oshima, K., Kawaguchi, K., Kuwabara, C., Nakao, S., Hara, A., Furuta, C., Aida, E., Ra, S., Takagi, Y., Watakabe, K. (2008). The effect of acupressure at the extra 1 point on subjective and autonomic responses to needle insertion. Anesth Analg. 107(2), 661-4.

Disclaimer: Position statements of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) are approved by the AMTA House of Delegates and reflect the views and opinions of the association, based on current research. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to scope of practice, medical diagnosis or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company or specific massage therapy technique, modality or approach.

Originally proposed by Ann Blair Kennedy

Approved September 2009