Massage is often thought of as a useful technique for increasing relaxation and well-being. People have massages when they’ve been feeling stressed or tense or when they have knots in parts of their body (or mind) and need some help unwinding and untangling themselves. But massage, whether of the more superficial layers of muscle or the deeper muscles and connective tissue, can also have a powerful and positive impact on longer term health-related problems. Two studies below offer an insight into the wide-ranging effects massage can have: the first shows how massage can have a strong therapeutic impact on patients with chronic low-back pain; the second investigates the benefits massage can have on scar tissue.

The first study, published in February 2014,1 investigated whether patients with chronic low-back pain (who had been diagnosed with degenerative changes of the spine, or some form of disc diseases or spine pain) benefitted from massage alone compared to massage combined with an anti-inflammatory drug. The study showed that pain levels were significantly reduced in both groups, which means that massage alone can have a powerful therapeutic impact and could therefore help to reduce the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (which have a wide range of unpleasant common side effects ranging from indigestion to, in rare cases, serious heart problems).2

In the second study published in March 2014,3 patients with burn scars received either standard treatment or standard treatment together with massage therapy. Burn scars, known as hypertrophic scars, are raised and usually red, thick, itchy or painful. Both groups showed improvement in the scars – assessed by examining the thickness or the scar tissue, the colouring of the skin, elasticity, and the presence of skin oil known as sebum – but the group that has received massage in addition to standard treat showed a significant decrease in scar thickness, erythema (skin redness), and other indicators.

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References:

1. Marian Majchrzycki, Piotr Kocur and Tomasz Kotwicki, ‘Deep Tissue Massage and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Low Back Pain: A Prospective Randomized Trial’, The Scientific World Journal, 2014 (2014)

2. NHS, ‘Anti-Inflammatories, Non-Steroidal – Side Effects – NHS Choices’, 2014 <http://tinyurl.com/lqkcvry> [accessed 11 August 2014].

3. Yoon Soo Cho and others, ‘The Effect of Burn Rehabilitation Massage Therapy on Hypertrophic Scar after Burn: A Randomized Controlled Trial’, Burns: Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, 2014