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Massage Therapy

By Steven Novella, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine

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Patient Education

In massage therapy (a manipulative and body-based practice), body tissues are manipulated to promote wellness and reduce pain and stress. The therapeutic value of massage for many musculoskeletal symptoms and stress is widely accepted. Massage has been shown to help relieve the following:

  • Muscle soreness

  • Pain due to back injuries

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Anxiety, fatigue, pain, nausea, and vomiting in cancer patients

Massage therapy is reported to be effective in treating low-birth-weight infants, preventing injury to the mother’s genitals during childbirth, relieving chronic constipation, and controlling asthma. A 2004 Cochrane review1 of massage therapy for low-birth-weight infants concluded that the evidence for efficacy was weak and wider use is not warranted. Evidence for the other reported uses is preliminary only; further study is required.

Massage can cause bruising and bleeding in patients with thrombocytopenia or bleeding disorders. Therapists must avoid putting pressure on bones affected by osteoporosis or metastatic cancer.