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Does [favourite massage method] work?

Paul Ingraham ARCHIVEDMicroblog posts are archived and rarely updated. In contrast, most long-form articles on PainScience.com are updated regularly over the years.

Q Is there any scientific evidence that my favourite minor massage method really works?

A The massage world is fragmented into dozens (even hundreds) of branded methods touted to be better than Swedish massage. People ask often ask me if one these methods “really works.” Unfortunately, we can’t judge any of the lesser massage techniques based on the results of good tests (that is, careful comparisons with other treatments, and fake treatments). Such data is thin even for the most prominent massage modalities. The rest have not been studied at all, or so poorly that it barely counts (eg: “tensegrity-based massage”). For now, and maybe forever, we can only judge these methods on the basis of the strength of their defining idea.

If they even have one. What’s different about it from other common massage methods? Anything? What can it do that supposedly other techniques cannot? You’d be surprised how many barely count as more than a slight variation on Swedish massage. Even if it is distinctive, is the big idea any better than a pet theory? Most are not. The history of medicine is littered with pet theory corpses. Most treatment ideas do not work out (null hypothesis), even really good ones. And almost everything that is worthwhile about massage is probably thanks to being artfully touched, which you’ll get from most methods. A slightly more detailed version of this answer is now in my article Does Massage Therapy Work?

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