Is Massage Helpful for Stress and Stress Related Illnesses?

Stress is a major cause of ill health and can trigger anxiety, depression, heart disease, back pain and gastrointestinal problems and is consistently cited as one of the most reported types of work related illnesses.

Work-related stress is defined as a harmful reaction that people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. By its very nature, stress is difficult to measure and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has two different data sources from which to conduct analysis. The preferred data source used by HSE for calculating rates and estimates for stress, depression or anxiety is the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The latest figures from the Labour Force Survey show that in 2016/17 there were 526,000 reported cases of stress related illnesses accounting for 12.5 million working days lost; a total of 40% of all work related illnesses and 49% of all working days lost.  Available from:</

Massage is an ancient holistic healing art for physical, emotional and mental health with enormous benefits for the skin and all systems of the body. Massage therapies are complementary to orthodox health care and very effective in the management of stress and stress related conditions.

Research shows that massage is effective in relieving stress, anxiety and depression. It lowers blood pressure, aids relaxation, eases muscular aches and pains; in particular affecting the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal and nervous systems. Scroll down for more information on the benefits and details of research.

How Effective is Massage as a Therapeutic Treatment?

“The Effectiveness of Massage Therapy” report by Dr Kenny CW Ng, MBBS BMedSci DipRM CertIVFitness, Member Australian Association of Massage Therapy. In collaboration with Professor Marc Cohen, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University. This report reviewed 740 academic evidence-based research papers from 1978 -2008

This report showed growing consistent and conclusive evidence that supports massage as a safe therapeutic treatment. Multiple studies provided good evidence to support massage as an effective treatment in reducing the symptoms of depression, managing stress and anxiety, for pain reduction/management, sleep improvement, improved muscular and skeletal function and quality of life; whilst at the same time improving/promoting relaxation.

The report stated the most active research domains related to neurological, musculoskeletal and sports related conditions. However, the versatility of massage therapy also showed positive outcomes in palliative care, symptomatic relief of chronic conditions, geriatric care, surgery, mental health conditions and obstetrics. Adverse outcomes of massage were found to be rare (“…..deemed too small to be statistically meaningful…..”) and treatments safe where professional massage guidelines were followed and carried out by a responsibly appropriately qualified massage practitioner. To view the report go to:


Benefits of Complementary Therapies:

  • Relaxation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Calms body, mind and emotions
  • Increased blood and lymphatic circulation
  • Improves concentration
  • Helps the lymphatic system remove toxins
  • Overall improvement in body system functioning, health and well-being
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Relieves muscle stiffness and tension
  • Improves posture
  • Relieves back pain
  • Loosens tight shrunken muscles
  • Tones flaccid muscles
  • Relieves sciatica
  • Deeper and more refreshing sleep
  • Increases joint and muscle flexibility
  • Relieves the symptoms of arthritis


Bell J. “Massage therapy helps to increase range of motion, decrease pain and assist in healing a client with low back pain and sciatica symptoms.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2008 12(3):281-9. Available from:

Many hospices and oncology departments use holistic/complementary massage therapies alongside orthodox treatments to relax; help with the side effects of treatments and relieve anxiety and depression in cancer sufferers

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Society; small studies have shown that massage therapy has shown some improvement in motor symptoms of sufferers.

Reuters (2010): Massage may help lift depression. A report in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reviewed medical literature to find out if massage therapy was an effective treatment for depression. Dr. Wen-Hsuan Hou of I-Shou University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and colleagues cited 17 studies which led the researchers to conclude that massage therapy had “potentially significant effects” in alleviating symptoms of depression.

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