The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Few adverse effects of massage have been reported. Fractures, discomfort, bruising, swelling of massaged tissues, and a case of liver hematoma (internal bruising) have been reported. Vigorous massage should be avoided in patients with bleeding disorders, low platelet counts, or on blood-thinning medications (such as heparin or warfarin/Coumadin®). Based on preliminary study, blood pressure may increase in healthy patients following vigorous massage (e.g. trigger point therapy); however, in patients with hypertension, massage may actually lower blood pressure. Areas should not be massaged where there are fractures, weakened bones from osteoporosis or cancer, open/healing skin wounds, skin infections, recent surgery, or blood clots. Massage and other touch-based therapies should be used cautiously in patients with a history of physical abuse. Women who are pregnant should consult with their obstetrician before beginning massage therapy. Allergies or skin irritation can occur with some essential oils used in massage.
Massage has not been evaluated as a method to diagnose medical conditions. Massage should not be used as a substitute for more proven therapies for medical conditions. Massage should not cause pain to the client.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): William Collinge, PhD, MPH (Collinge & Associates); Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Paul Ingraham, RMT (private practice); David Lee, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Katie Nummy, BS (Northeastern University); Michael Rotblatt, MD (UCLA Medical Center); Nancy Russell, MD (MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Aourell M, Skoog M, Carleson J. Effects of Swedish massage on blood pressure. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2005 Nov;11(4):242-6.
Billhult A, Bergbom I, Stener-Victorin E. Massage relieves nausea in women with breast cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy. J Altern Complement Med 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):53-7.
Bost N, Wallis M. The effectiveness of a 15 minute weekly massage in reducing physical and psychological stress in nurses. Aust J Adv Nurs 2006 Jun-Aug;23(4):28-33.
Diego MA, Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, et al. Spinal cord patients benefit from massage therapy. Int J Neurosci 2002;112(2):133-142.
Fernandez-de-Las-Penas C, Alonso-Blanco C, Cuadrado ML, et al. Are manual therapies effective in reducing pain from tension-type headache?: a systematic review. Clin J Pain 2006 Mar-Apr;22(3):278-85.
Hattan J, King L, Griffiths P. The impact of foot massage and guided relaxation following cardiac surgery: a randomized controlled trial. J Adv Nurs 2002;37(2):199-207.
Hernandez-Reif M, Martinez A, et al. Premenstrual symptoms are relieved by massage therapy. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 2000;21(1):9-15.
Kelmanson IA, Adulas EI. Massage therapy and sleep behaviour in infants born with low birth weight. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2006 Aug;12(3):200-5.
Kim JS, Jo YJ, Hwang SK. [The effects of abdominal meridian massage on menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea in full-time employed women] Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi 2005 Dec;35(7):1325-32.
Macgregor R, Campbell R, Gladden MH, et al. Effects of massage on the mechanical behaviour of muscles in adolescents with spastic diplegia: a pilot study. Dev Med Child Neurol 2007 Mar;49(3):187-91.
Perlman AI, Sabina A, Williams AL, et al. Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med 2006 Dec 11-25;166(22):2533-8.
Roh YS, Cho H, Oh JO, et al. Effects of skin rehabilitation massage therapy on pruritus, skin status, and depression in burn survivors. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi 2007 Mar;37(2):221-6.
Silva LM, Cignolini A, Warren R, et al. Improvement in sensory impairment and social interaction in young children with autism following treatment with an original Qigong massage methodology. Am J Chin Med 2007;35(3):393-406.
Underdown A, Barlow J, Chung V, et al. Massage intervention for promoting mental and physical health in infants aged under six months. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006 Oct 18;(4):CD005038.
Wilkinson SM, Love SB, Westcombe AM, et al. Effectiveness of aromatherapy massage in the management of anxiety and depression in patients with cancer: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. J Clin Oncol 2007 Feb 10;25(5):532-9.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children,
never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.