Merck Manual

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Massage Therapy


Denise Millstine

, MD, Mayo Clinic

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2021 | Modified Sep 2022
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In massage therapy (a manipulative and body-based practice Manipulative and Body-Based Practices Five categories of complementary or alternative medicine are generally recognized: Whole medical systems Mind-body medicine Biologically based practices not usually used in conventional medicine... read more ), body tissues are manipulated to reduce pain, relieve muscle tension, and reduce stress. The therapeutic value of massage for many musculoskeletal symptoms is widely accepted. Massage has been shown to help or relieve symptoms in the following:

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.


  • 1. Juneau AL, Aita M, Héon M: Review and critical analysis of massage studies for term and preterm infants. Neonatal Netw 34(3):165-77, 2015. doi: 10.1891/0730-0832.34.3.165

  • 2. Álvarez MJ, Fernández D, Gómez-Salgado J: The effects of massage therapy in hospitalized preterm neonates: A systematic review. Int J Nurs Stud 69:119-136, 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2017.02.009

  • 3. Badr LK, Abdallah B, Kahale L: A meta-analysis of preterm infant massage: an ancient practice with contemporary applications. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs 40(6):344-58, 2015. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000177

  • 4. Hillier SL, Louw Q, Morris L, et al: Massage therapy for people with HIV/AIDS. Cochrane Database Syst Rev(1):CD007502, 2010. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007502.pub2

  • 5. Angelopoulou E, Anagnostouli M, Chrousos GP, et al: Massage therapy as a complementary treatment for Parkinson's disease: a systematic literature review. Complement Ther Med 49:102340, 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102340

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NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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