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Studies Show Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage can enhance the immune function in preterm infants, decrease blood pressure and improve stability in older persons, as well as reduce stress and anxiety in cancer patients, according to recent research compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

And a large percentage of U.S. adults are turning to massage therapy to address health issues. 

According to the AMTA, between July 2010 and July 2011 roughly 38 million adult Americans (18%) had a massage at least once. Of those surveyed, 75% of Americans claim that their primary reason for receiving a massage was medical (43%) and stress related (32%). Also, 89% of individuals believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain; with 29% of respondents admitting they have used massage therapy for pain relief, and 50% of people claim their doctor has either strongly recommended or encouraged them to get a massage. 

Massage can be used to treat a variety of health conditions, including osteoarthritis of the knee, inflammation after exercise, chronic low-back pain, fibromyalgia and more conditions. In addition, recent studies continue to support massage therapy's effectiveness in improving health and medical conditions, says the AMTA.

Massage Therapy for Improved Immune Function and Weight Gain in Preterm Infants

According to research published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), showed that for stable, preterm infants, daily massage therapy is positively associated with higher natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity and weight gain. American Massage Therapy Association President, Cynthia Ribeiro, says of the study, "This research demonstrates that massage therapy can benefit preterm infants by enhancing immunity and stimulating growth. Parents of preterm infants are encouraged to speak with a certified massage therapist to learn more about certain techniques designed to aid in their child's development."

Massage Therapy for Improvements in Balance, Neurological, and Cardiovascular Measures in Older Adults

Research published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (IJTMB ) found that older adults who receive massage therapy for up to six weeks could benefit from decreased blood pressure and improved stability. "This study suggests that regular massage therapy can produce several advantages for the older generation, including a relaxation affect for the entire body, lowering blood pressure, decreasing stress and improving balance, among other things," adds Cynthia Ribeiro.

Massage Therapy for Decreasing Stress in Cancer Patients

BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care has published research that indicates massage therapy can have a positive influence on the quality of life of people suffering serious illnesses such as brain cancer. The American Massage Therapy Association acknowledges these study results, which suggest that massage therapy can improve physical as well as emotional well-being in patients with late stage disease and when used in combination with standard care, massage can help reduce stress, anxiety, pain and fatigue.

Visit AMTA's research section for more information on consumer and industry fact sheets.