10% of therapeutic massage has side effects
Four articles on PainSci cite Cambron 2007: 1. Does Massage Therapy Work? 2. A Deep Dive into Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness 3. Massage Therapy Side Effects 4. Poisoned by Massage
PainSci commentary on Cambron 2007: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.
10% of 100 patients receiving massage therapy reported “some minor discomfort” in the day following treatment. 23% reported unexpected, non-musculoskeletal benefits. Interestingly, that means that most of these patients experienced no noteworthy effect at all, good or bad.
This study did not include enough people to rule out the possibility of rare and/or serious side effects of massage therapy.
For contrast, a more general study of all kinds of manual therapy (see Carnes), including massage, found that 20-40% of treatments will cause some kind of unpleasantness, side effect, or “adverse event” in medicalspeak.
~ Paul Ingraham
original abstract †Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the amount and type of negative side-effects and positive (unexpected) effects experienced after a massage session.
STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional.
SETTING: Massage clinic at a health sciences university.
SUBJECTS: Of the 100 new and returning massage therapy clients who agreed to participate, 91 completed all survey questions.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Telephone survey and medical chart review 2-7 days postmassage.
RESULTS: Overall, 10% of the massage clients experienced some minor discomfort after the massage session; however, 23% experienced unexpected, nonmusculoskeletal positive side-effects. The majority of negative symptoms started less than 12 hours after the massage and lasted for 36 hours or less. The majority of positive benefits began immediately after massage and lasted more than 48 hours. No major side-effects occurred during this study.
CONCLUSIONS: This the first known study to define the rate of side-effects after massage therapy treatment. These data are important for risk-benefit analyses of massage care. Larger studies are needed to verify these data and to assess effects of different massage types and durations.
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- Inciting events associated with lumbar disc herniation. Suri 2010 Spine J.
- Prediction of an extruded fragment in lumbar disc patients from clinical presentations. Pople 1994 Spine (Phila Pa 1976).
- Characteristics of patients with low back and leg pain seeking treatment in primary care: baseline results from the ATLAS cohort study. Konstantinou 2015 BMC Musculoskelet Disord.
- Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of universal school-based mindfulness training compared with normal school provision in reducing risk of mental health problems and promoting well-being in adolescence: the MYRIAD cluster randomised controlled trial. Kuyken 2022 Evid Based Ment Health.
- No long-term effects after a three-week open-label placebo treatment for chronic low back pain: a three-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Kleine-Borgmann 2022 Pain.