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The Effectiveness of Massage Therapy

The following report was commissioned by the Australian Association of Massage Therapists  (now known as Massage & Myotherapy Australia) and was first published in October 2011.

By Dr Kenny CW Ng, MBBS BMedSci DipRM CertIVFitness, Member Australian Association of Massage Therapy, in collaboration with Professor Marc Cohen, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University.

 A Summary of Evidence-Based Research

A growing body of research supports massage therapy as being an evidence-based therapeutic modality, in particular:

Managing Anxiety, Stress and Promoting Relaxation

       Multiple studies provided good evidence supporting the effectiveness of massage therapy in managing anxiety, stress and promoting relaxation.

Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain

       Seven reviews were in unison, concluding that massage therapy for subacute and chronic low back pain to be more effective than placebo.

Pain Reduction, Quality of Life, Improved Sleep, Reduced Depressive Symptoms

       Positive outcomes reported following massage therapy include pain reduction; better quality of life, improved sleep and function, as well as reduced depressive symptoms.

Infant Distress, Newborn Growth, Mother-Infant Interaction, Post-Natal Depression

       Studies into the benefits of massage therapy for maternal and infant care reported a reduction in infant distress, significant newborn growth and development, improved mother-infant interaction and reduced symptoms of post-natal depression.

Implications for Practice

       This review highlights the volume and significant growth of massage-related evidence over which in turn reflects growing interest in the effectiveness of massage as a therapeutic modality. This growing evidence base should aid clinicians in recommending massage as a therapeutic modality.


While numerous indications for massage therapy are yet to be supported by research, massage may still be recommended based on its excellent safety profile as well as anecdotal evidence. In the context of integrative medicine, clinicians are encouraged to collaborate with professional massage practitioners in the interest of the best management of their patients.