Research Roundup: Massage for Pain Management

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Pain can negatively affect a person’s quality of life and impede recovery from illness or injury. It can be occasional, acute or chronic, depending on whether the person has had an accident, is suffering from musculoskeletal dysfunction, or lack of movement or mobility.1 It’s important for individuals to consult with their health care provider for a diagnosis and advice on the best treatment options for their condition.

One pain management strategy to consider is massage therapy, which recent research suggests may be a helpful aid for manually controlling symptoms in people suffering metastatic cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, among other illnesses, as well as post-cardiac surgery pain.

Here are some recent findings highlighting the role of massage therapy in pain management, compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association.

Massage Therapy for Improved Pain and Sleep in Metastatic Cancer Patients

Research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine2 found that therapeutic massage at home for metastatic cancer patients can improve their overall quality of life by reducing pain and improving sleep quality. Winona Bontrager says of the study, “These findings suggest that cancer patients can also benefit from professional massage, both physically and mentally, providing the necessary comfort during advanced stages of the disease." Read more »

Related: Cancer & Massage Therapy: Essential Contraindications  | 2.5 Credit Hours

Massage Therapy for Decreased Pain in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice3 showed that adults with rheumatoid arthritis may feel a decrease in pain, as well as greater grip strength and range of motion in wrists and large upper joints, after receiving regular moderate-pressure massages during a 4-week period.

“This research demonstrates the potential value of massage therapy for the estimated 1.3 million Americans living with this chronic condition, with women outnumbering men 2.5-14. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are encouraged to speak with their health care provider about the possibility of incorporating routine massage therapy into their current treatment plan to help manage painful symptoms,” says Winona Bontrager. Read more »

Related: Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis  | 2 Credit Hours

Massage Therapy for Reduced Pain, Anxiety and Muscular Tension in Cardiac Surgery Patients

Research published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery5 indicates that massage therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety and muscular tension, as well as enhance relaxation and satisfaction after cardiac surgery. The American Massage Therapy Association acknowledges that cardiac surgery recovery is a very crucial time a patient must endure and this study further suggests that massage therapy can be a useful aid in making the road to recovery an easier journey. Read more »

Related: Cardiovascular Health & Massage Therapy | 2.5 Credit Hours

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1. Strine T.W., Hootman J.M., Chapman D.P., Okoro C.A., Balluz LHealth-related quality of life, health risk behaviors, and disability among adults with pain-related activity difficulty. American Journal of Public Health. 2005. 95(11), 2042–2048.
2. Toth M, Marcantonio ER, Davis RB, et al. Massage Therapy for Patients with Metastatic Cancer: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2013 January 31.
3. Field T., Diego M., Delgado J., Garcia D., Funk CG., Rheumatoid Arthritis in Upper Limbs Benefits from Moderate Pressure Massage Therapy. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2013 May;19(2):101-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.12.001.
4. Helmick CG., et al. Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Conditions in the United States. Arthritis & Rheumatism. 2008 January; 58:15-25.
5. Braun LA. et al., Massage Therapy for Cardiac Surgery Patients. The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 2012;144:1453-1459.

"It gives me credibility with my clients that I can say I’m an AMTA member."

Becky P., AMTA member since 2005