Is Massage Therapy Backed by Solid Science?

Now that’s a big question… Is massage therapy backed by solid science…

There are a lot of sceptics in the world, and rightly so, I never enter into anything without doing my own research! I think it’s a mistake to dismiss everything without undeniable proof that it works though, you’re better exploring people’s own tales on personal experience when it comes to massage as every one of you and every massage therapist is different…we’ll look at both viewpoints.

This question comprises of many factors…does a massage work? Yes, massage sets out to relax the muscles and regulate the systems of the body. Does it help pain? Yes, by delivering blood and nutrients to starved areas and releasing tightness of the posture. Does it relax you? Yes, the comforting and rhythmic pressure, calm music, environment and the therapist all play an important role, but massage distracts and calms the mind offering the body the opportunity to rest and heal. Does it boost your immune system? Yes, massage when applied correctly rids the body of toxins by aiding lymphatic flow, it also draws the brains attention to parts of the body which require it’s attention and thus encourages healing. 

Is massage therapy backed by solid science? Well…not conclusively…

So what actually makes ‘solid science?’

Science has a method, known as the Scientific Method. It’s a series of recognised processes required to provide proof.

1. Define a question (What do you want to know?)

2. Gather information and resources (Test and observe)

3. Form an explanatory hypothesis (What happened? What does this prove or disprove?)

4. Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner (For something to be considered genuine, it must work in variable conditions)

5. Analyse the data (What variables are there?)

6. Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis (Can you prove something?)

7. Publish results (Results are only ever widely published when they are conclusive)

8. Retest (Frequently done by other scientists)

 

This is great for tests where you can look at the same components over and over again, like a chemical experiment, or giving a group of people a pill. but when it comes to any research studying massage we come to one major problem, how can a massage test be ‘reproducible?’ If someone wanted to do your experiment again, they would have to be able to do it exactly the same, same problem, same technique, same time, same pressure, same therapist…everything.

But massage, well a good massage anyway, should be different every time, tailored uniquely for you every time by an experienced therapist. You don’t develop knots in the exact same place every time you have a bad back, some knots need more work than others because they are older or have more fascia connecting them to other tissues, and some therapists have a lot more skill than others because of a natural ability or further training! Some therapists can get the same result as another using a different technique, but get a different result using the same technique, all of the therapists at YOU Massage Therapy are exceptionally skilled and experienced, yet we all use varying techniques.

Science’s answer? There are just too many variables. On a side note, most research into massage therapy is done by either physiotherapy students or sports science students who have ‘dabbled’ in massage, the environment is often controlled and clinical and does not leave way for the effect advice and environment have on relaxation and in turn, healing.

But have no fear; there is evidence for massage therapy!

So massage therapy might not be backed up by solid science, but to be honest gravity is just a theory, and despite my many efforts I haven’t spontaneously floated away, yet.

The research is out there and it would take me forever to summarise it, but the best evidence for massage however is starting to emerge, some of you will of heard the term myofascial pain syndrome, if you haven’t its basically the pain you get from a knot (muscle fibre linked together in a bid to straighten posture or protect after an injury) as it pulls on the fascial connective tissues which keep us stuck together. Recently a study in the archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation has actually identified knots as the only difference between an adult in pain, and an adult who isn’t in pain. Massage Therapy works to break down the sticky fascia and release tight muscles knots, a good sign for massage as one of the best forms of pain relief!

Aside from this there is a great deal of evidence that shows the benefits of massage during stressful period, for  reduced pain in cancer patients, for increasing flexibility and improving productivity, scientifically backed evidence this is!

 

So is massage backed by solid science? Not conclusively because it’s not always possible to perform solid research. But it is backed by solid evidence; it’s one of the oldest and most trusted forms of therapy, it’s been around for thousands of years and still remains popular. Unfortunately, millions of people are let down by other Holistic therapies that claim to work miracles, and group massage in the same family, this is a mistake. Massage actually effects what is going on in our bodies, it cures pain and gives you permission to let go of stress; so many of our clients comment that they would never have believed something so simple to be so effective! book yourself in and conduct your own research, you will be pleasantly surprised I guarantee you!

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