Massage Therapy Is A Powerful Tool For Pain Relief


Pain can negatively affect a person's quality of life and impede recovery from illness or injury. Recent research compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) suggests that massage can be a helpful pain management strategy for manually controlling symptoms in people suffering metastatic cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, among other illnesses, as well as post-cardiac surgery pain.

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Massage therapy for improved pain and sleep in metastatic cancer patients

Research1 published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that therapeutic massage at home for metastatic cancer patients can improve their overall quality of life by reducing pain and improving sleep quality. American Massage Therapy Association president Winona Bontrager, says of the study, "These findings suggest that cancer patients can also benefit from professional massage, both physically and mentally, providing the necessary comfort during advanced stages of the disease."

Massage therapy for decreased pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients

Research 2 published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice showed that adults with rheumatoid arthritis may feel a decrease in pain, as well as greater grip strength and range of motion in writs and large upper joins, after receiving regular moderate-pressure massages during a 4-week period. "This research demonstrates the potential value of massage therapy for the estimated 1.3 million Americans living with this chronic condition, with women outnumbering men 2.5-143. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are encouraged to speak with their health care provider about the possibility of incorporating routine massage therapy into their current treatment plan to help manage painful symptoms," says Bontrager.

Massage therapy for reduced pain, anxiety and muscular tension in cardiac surgery patients

Research4 published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery indicates that massage therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety and muscular tension, as well as enhance relaxation and satisfaction after cardiac surgery. The American Massage Therapy Association acknowledges that cardiac surgery recovery is a very crucial time a patient must endure and this study further suggests that massage therapy can be a useful aid in making the road to recovery an easier journey.

View AMTA's Research Roundup Volume 3 online at

Previous research roundups from AMTA

Volume 1. AMTA compiled its first research roundup in 2012 which highlighted the growing body of evidence showing that massage therapy can be an effective tool for a variety of health conditions, including:

  • Osteoarthritis of the knee;
  • Inflammation after exercise;
  • chronic low-back pain; and
  • Fibromyalgia.

Volume 2. AMTA issued its second research roundup in early 2013, which outlined medical research suggesting the benefits of massage therapy, including the role it can play in overall health and well-being in people of all ages, including:

  • Enhanced immune function in preterm infants;
  • Decreased blood pressure and improved stability in older persons; and
  • Reduced stress and anxiety in cancer patients.

Massage therapy facts

  • In 2012, AMTA estimates that massage therapy was an $8 to $12 billion dollar industry;
  • Between July 2011 and July 2012, roughly 34.5 million adult Americans (16 percent) had a massage at least once;
  • Results from AMTA's 16th annual consumer survey reveal more Americans are incorporating massage therapy into their regular health and wellness regimens to assist with medical conditions;
  • Seventy-five percent of consumers surveyed claim that their primary reason for receiving a massage was medical (43%) or stress (32%) related 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
  • Fifty percent of people claim their doctor has either strongly recommended or encouraged them to get a massage.

About AMTA
The American Massage Therapy Association® (AMTA®) is a professional association of more than 56,000 members. AMTA professional members have demonstrated a level of skill and knowledge through education and/or testing and must meet continuing education requirements to retain membership. AMTA provides information about massage therapy to the public and works to improve the professional climate for massage therapists. The association also helps consumers and healthcare professionals locate qualified massage therapists nationwide, through AMTA's Find a Massage Therapist free national locator service.


  1. Toth M, Marcantonio ER, Davis RB, et al. Massage Therapy for Patients with Metastatic Cancer: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2013 January 31.
  2. Field T., Diego M., Delgado J., Garcia D., Funk CG., Rheumatoid Arthritis in Upper Limbs Benefits from Moderate Pressure Massage Therapy. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2013 May;19(2):101-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.12.001.
  3. Helmick CG., et al. Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Conditions in the United States. Arthritis & Rheumatism. 2008 January; 58:15-25.
  4. Braun LA. et al., Massage Therapy for Cardiac Surgery Patients. The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 2012;144:1453-1459.


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