Tuesday 6th July, 2021
  Categories: General, Practitioners

The health benefits of massage

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

Clinical trials have shown that regular massages have the following scientifically proven benefits:

  • reducing blood pressure
  • improving sleep
  • reducing anxiety and generally improving your psychological state
  • reducing fatigue, aches and pains

In this article we will discuss these findings and the types of massage that gave these benefits. More importantly we discuss self massage options that make this type of care practical and affordable for an average person.


The benefits
Table: clinical trials
Summary of what worked
Your self massage alternatives

The benefits

We managed to find 28 trials of massages used for health and wellness. Those results are compiled into an easy to read table below. In summary a variety of different massages were used demonstrating that massages can help the following.

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

Following the table we summarise what works. The regular massages used in most of the trials would be prohibitively expensive if a professional therapist was used, so we also discuss effective self massage options.

The health benefits of 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 worked

Chair massage
Simple chair massages were one type of massage found to be effective

The type of massage that was successful

We had 28 different trials using a variety of different massage techniques, which would have been applied by an even larger number of massage therapists. Many were what would be considered normal remedial type massages where the therapist would have used some form of lubricant, and rubbed and kneaded the muscles. These include "remedial massage", "back massage" and "Swedish massage". Many used "chair massage" which is where the patient sits on a chair clothed. Only one used a version of pressure point techniques. Looking for some form of commonality, we conclude that for massages to have these benefits they need to be a massage that:

  • loosens tight muscles
  • stimulateds blood flow, and
  • works on tight spots in muscles

Where was massaged

Although most of the massages were performed on the back, neck and shoulders, when massage was done on the hands, forearms, feet and legs it was also successful.

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 regular massages must be continually applied.

Reflexology on feet
27/28 of the trials managed to produce excellent health benefits without the use of special points

Special points to rub or press

We see lots of articles and videos giving special points to rub to reduce reduce blood pressure, reduce anxiety and give a host of other health benefits. Note that 27 out of the 28 trials produced excellent health benefits using normal regular massage. This is not to say that these special points have no merit, just that the scientists managed to produce excellent health benefits without them.

Your self massage alternatives

While many types of massage and protocols worked, probably the best model to follows was trial seven, which used 15 minute massage sessions three times a week. Blood pressure was still considerably reduced 72 hours after the last massage, but not after two weeks. The only problem is that three massages a week for ever would get very expensive, so lets look at some home massage options.

Self massage with hands
Self massage using hands

Massage using your hands

As discussed in our article on the benefits of self massage, using your own hands is effective. Keeping in mind that you can only reach certain parts of your body and the massage strokes need to be towards your heart (one way valves in blood vessels) the muscles that can be massaged this way are limited. It is presumed that the best effects would be obtained from massaging the larger muscles, so the use of hand massage to for health and wellness would be limited.

Massage cushion
Massage cushion

Chair and cushion massagers

These are able to massage larger areas of muscle plus are easy and convenient to use so would they would probably be very useful.

Self massage allows the benefits of quality massage at home for little cost

Vibration massagers (RECOMMENDED)

As we discuss in our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications vibrations delivered by an effective massager penetrate better than manual massage and have excellent benefits. Further, it's application does not require and special massage skill. Therefore, if you follow the correct simple procedure and use an effective machine it should provide excellent benefits.

How to use vibration massage

Using vibration massage is extra-ordinarily easy. We ask you to check our our instructions for the fine points and precautions, but basically all you need to do is place the vibration massager on the muscle over the trigger point and let the vibrations penetrate for 30-60 seconds. This can easily be repeated every day.

How to choose a massager

For how to choose an quality massager that will do a great job and that you will be extremely happy with please see our article How to choose a massager, or you can go straight and check out our economical, easy to use professional standard machines: the General Purpose Massager or our Ultimate Quad Head Massager.


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.


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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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