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Reduces anxiety, depression: the only confirmed benefits of massage therapy

updated

Tags: treatment, mind, manual therapy, massage, back pain, pain problems, spine

Six articles on PainSci cite Moyer 2008: (1) SSRI Antidepressants Are Not Medicine(2) Anxiety & Chronic Pain(3) Does Massage Therapy Work?(4) Complete Guide to Low Back Pain(5) The Tyranny of Yoga, Meditation, and Mindfulness(6) Complete Guide to Frozen Shoulder

PainSci summary of Moyer 2008: ?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 at the bottom of the page, as often as possible.

Dr. Christopher Moyer explains that the only confirmed benefits of massage are its effects on mood (“affect”), specifically depression and anxiety. “Together, these effects on anxiety and depression are the most well-established effects in the MT research literature. They are especially important for us to understand not only for their own sake, but also because anxiety and depression exacerbate many other specific health problem.” He proposes that “the time is right to name a new subfield for massage therapy research and practice: affective massage therapy.”

~ 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.

Two general effects [of massage, MT] are well-supported by scientific data and widely agreed-upon by MT researchers. Quantitative research reviews show that a series of MT treatments consistently produces sizable reductions of depression in adult recipients. The effects of MT on anxiety are even better understood. Single sessions of MT significantly reduce state anxiety, the momentary emotional experiences of apprehension, tension, and worry in both adults and in children, and multiple sessions of MT, performed over a period of days or weeks, significantly reduce trait anxiety, the normally stable individual tendency to experience anxiety states, to an impressive degree in adults.

Together, these effects on anxiety and depression are the most well-established effects in the MT research literature. They are especially important for us to understand not only for their own sake, but also because anxiety and depression exacerbate many other specific health problems. In other words, it is reasonable to theorize that quite a few specific health benefits associated with MT may actually be “second-order” effects that are a consequence of MT’s “first-order” effects on anxiety and depression.

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