Tuesday 6th August, 2019
  Categories: General, Practitioners

What are the benefits of regular massage

Take care of yourself
Massage can be used for a lot more than pain

Summary of the benefits

From the results of 28 clinical trials we find that regular massages have the following health related benefits.

  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Work related aches and pains
  • Reducing blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Reducing occupational stress
  • Reducing depression
  • Reducing nausea in cancer patients

In this article we will discuss the results of those trials, including what types of massages gave these results.


Trial results: including summary table
Summary of what massages were effective
Your self massage alternatives

The results of the trials

The following table summarises the results of the trials. Following the table we will share with you the different types of massage that were successful.

The benefits of regular massage: summary of clinical trials

NOTE: You may need to scroll the table below left/right for more information







Remedial back and shoulder massage

Each evening for 3 days

Sleep, fatigue, surgery recovery

Improved sleep, fatigue and surgery recovery


Slow back massage

10 minutes each evening for 3 days


Improved sleep quality


Chair massage

30 minute, weekly for 10 weeks

Work related pain



Chair massage

10 minutes per day for 4 days

Work related stress

Reduces stress levels


Swedish massage

10 minutes, 3 times a week for 10 sessions

Blood pressure

Average blood pressure reduced from 128/76 to 116/18


Swedish massage

10-15 minutes, 3 times a week for 10 sessions

Blood pressure

Blood pressure reduced, still reduced 72 hours after the last massage


Swedish massage

10-15 minutes, 3 times a week for 10 weeks

Blood pressure

Blood pressure reduced, still reduces after 72 hours but returned to previous two weeks after


Chair massages

4 weekly 20 minutes

Blood pressure

Significantly reduced


Chair massages

15 minute weekly for 10 weeks

Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety reduced



20-25 minutes twice weekly for 4 weeks

Occupational stress

Reduce occupational stress


Foot massage

10 minutes, 3 times a week for 4 weeks


Improved sleep quality



Eight 15 minute sessions

Occupational pain and stress

Reduced occupational pain and stress



25 minutes, twice a week for 4 weeks

Occupational stress (intensive care nurses)

Reduced occupational stress, still apparent 2 weeks after the last massage



15 minutes, weekly for 5 weeks


Reduced anxiety levels


Chair massage

15 minute chair massage weekly for 6 weeks


Reduced anxiety levels


Chair massage

twice weekly for a month

Pain, disability, head and neck movement

Reduced pain and disability, increased head and neck movement


Back massage

15 minutes per day for a week

Anxiety, blood pressure, sleep

Improved anxiety, blood pressure and sleep


Whole body Swedish

One hour weekly for 4 weeks

Blood pressure and heart rate

Reduced blood pressure and heart rate


Back massage or foot massage

30 minutes, twice weekly for 3 weeks

Blood pressure, sleep

Both the back massages and feet massages reduced blood pressure and improved sleep


Chair massage

Eight 15 minute sessions

Work related pain

Reduced work related pain



Various, up to 60 minutes

Study of 1290 cancer patients measuring a variety of symptoms

Improved: pain, fatigue, anxiety, nausea and depression


Pressure points on legs

Daily for 4 weeks


Improved sleeping


Swedish massage

30 minutes weekly for 3 weeks


Improved sleep quality


Back massage

Daily for 3 days


Improved sleep quality


Back massage

20 minutes daily for 5 days


Improved sleep quality


Remedial back massage

20 minutes, 3 times a day for duration of hospital stay


Improved sleep quality


Remedial massage

10 min


Improved quality


Hand/forearm & foot/calf massage +/- aromatherapy

20 minute


Improved sleep quality

Summary of what massages were effective

In all but one of the trials the type of massages used fell into two basic categories: remedial type massages and chair massages.

Massage therapist
Massage therapist performing remedial massage

Remedial type massages

These include "remedial massage", "Swedish massage", and "back massage". While there is some variations between these, and indeed variations between individual practitioners using the same type of massage, these all share a similar pattern. The therapist examines the muscles for tightness and lumps, then addresses these and stimulates blood flow using four basic techniques.

  • effleurage: stroking movements with moderate pressure
  • petrissage: kneading, squeezing and rolling
  • tapotement: tapping and percussion movements
  • applying pressure
Chair massage
Simple chair massages were one type of massage found to be effective

Chair massages

Chair massages are commonly provided by companies for their employees. They are commonly shorter duration, and for convenience employees remain clothed and sit on a specially designed chair. Because of this the therapist is commonly restricted to working on the neck, shoulders and upper back. Working through a thin layer of clothing rather than lubricated skin therapists tend to use more pressure techniques plus friction techniques where the therapist rubs across the muscle fibres.

Length and frequency of massages

Looking at our table of trial results we see that most massages ranged from 10-30 minutes. Frequencies ranged from three times a day through to weekly. If we look at the results of trial seven we see three massages a week lowered blood pressure. This pressure was still reduced after 72 hours, but not after two weeks. This tells us that the massages should be regular, and need to be continually applied.

Self massage

In all the trials the professional therapists used did a fantastic job. However, for massage frequencies of several times a week this would be prohibitively expensive for many. In a separate article we discuss self massage options that may be used to supplement this.


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Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more

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