I am delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Jacqueline Tibbett and Jolie Haun on a presentation about the current state of evidence as it relates to massage therapy. We will be speaking Oct. 3rd at the 95th annual American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) in Dallas Texas.
In the coming weeks I will be posting key points, summaries of the presentation. In this post, I have uploaded some of the references and supplemental information.
Evidence-Based Benefits of Massage Therapy For Pain & Health-Related Quality of Life
The history of massage therapy is a long one. In one form or another massage has been used by most societies throughout history to treat people with illnesses and disabilities. It is widely accepted that massage feels good, but it is only recently that scientists began asking, how does massage therapy work?
So, How Does Massage Therapy Work?
The biopsychosocial model of health and disease provides a practical paradigm for investigating the complex interplay between massage therapy and clinical outcomes.
Viewed through this lens, investigation into mechanisms of action should extend beyond local tissue changes and include peripheral and central pain modulation. Where an observed favorable outcome may be explained by a number of overlapping responses in the periphery, spinal cord, and brain, including but not limited to:
• Affective Touch - Interpersonal touch and therapeutic stimulation of somatosensory nerves (C-tactile afferent) mediates the release of oxytocin and endogenous opioids. Which can result in reduce physiological and behavioral reactivity to stressors and improved mood/affect.
• Contextual Factors - A positive therapeutic encounter is tied to clinical outcomes; the magnitude of a response is influenced by mood, expectation, and conditioning.
• Endogenous Pain Modulation - Input from somatosensory nerves (Aβ, Aδ and C fibers) inhibits nociceptive processing and activate descending inhibitory mechanisms. This influences neuroimmune processes correlated with the experience of pain.
• Mechanical Factors - Applied forces induce a molecular response that helps diminish intraneural edema and expedite clearance of noxious biochemical by-products (pro-inflammatory cytokines, and creatine kinase).
So, What Does Massage Therapy Work For?
In addition to a overview of mechanism of action, our review identified that massage therapy has a growing body of evidence supporting its effectiveness in reducing pain and improving health-related quality of life in a variety of health conditions and rehabilitation, including but not limited to:
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