25 Benefits of Massage: For Body and Mind

Receiving a regular massage enhances your overall wellbeing, lowers stress, manages pain, and encourages relaxation. It may also have other health advantages, including improved digestion, increased range of motion, and relief from the symptoms of chronic conditions.

Benefits of Massage

Reasons to Consider Massage Therapy

Benefit 1: Lowers Stress and Encourages Relaxation

1: Lowers Stress and Encourages Relaxation

Having a massage is associated with relaxation (unless of course you pick a deep tissue one!)

Stress diminishes, tightness is eased and both tension and pain become reduced during and after treatment.

What you may not know it has a great impact on the nervous system, lowering stress hormones that contribute to the “fight or flight” response.

It also helps to increase feel good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

Several studies have shown that massage can increase serotonin and dopamine levels by a whopping 30%.

Why is this important?

Serotonin helps you maintain a balanced mood, with an increase in dopamine making you feel more productive and focused.

Oxytocin, referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’, is also boosted.

In fact, massage therapists also reap the stress-relieving benefits simply through giving a treatment!

Benefit 2: Promotes Better Sleep

2: Promotes Better Sleep

Sleep is so important for your immune system and to reduce the chance of life-threatening illnesses.

If you’re suffering with insomnia or simply don’t want to join the 35% of Americans who don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, try incorporating massage into your bedtime routine.

Acupressure, an ancient Chinese therapy that blends acupuncture and reflexology, is excellent for better slumber.

A randomized controlled trial conducted in the dialysis centers of four major hospitals in Taiwan unearthed that acupressure significantly decreases awake time and improves quality of sleep.

Don’t forget, you can even reap the health advantages of acupressure at home with a special acupressure mat that replicates the treatment by using plastic or metal points.

We’ve written handy guidance on how to use the treatment for sleep.

Benefit 3: Manages Pain

3: Manages Pain

Going for a massage can sometimes be seen as a luxury, but as Harvard Medical School shared, it’s a ‘legitimate therapy’ for many painful conditions.

A study, published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, focused on 46 adults with hand pain.

Results revealed that those who had four weekly sessions, and did hand self-massage at home, experienced improvements in their grip strength, a decrease in hand pain and a reduction in anxiety, sleep disturbances and low moods.

Another piece of research published in Annals of Family Medicine discovered that a 60-minute therapeutic session, two or three times a week for four weeks, relieved chronic neck pain when compared to either none or fewer massages.

Those suffering from arthritis may want to turn to massage.

As shared by the Arthritis Society, massage can help relieve pain and ease muscle stiffness by enhancing blood flow to arthritic joints, improving movement and reducing pain.

Benefit 4: Improves Immune Function

4: Improves Immune Function

There’s a stack of research that has demonstrated that regular massage can help boost our immune system and remove toxins, increasing blood flow throughout the body.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) teamed up with Professor Fulvio D’Acquisto, an immunologist from the University of Roehampton.

They discovered it increases the amount of white blood cells in HIV patients, a disease that causes a reduction in a type of white blood cell known as ‘T Lymphocytes’.

Results also showed that after an hour’s massage even people without serious immune conditions saw a 70% increase in white blood cells.

It doesn’t even need to be a long treatment!

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles found that even a session as short as 45 minutes can increase white blood cells.

There were other physical changes too, such as lower levels of ‘cytokines’, which are molecules that pay a fundamental role in inflammation.

Chronically high levels of inflammation can lead to diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and depression.

You don’t even need to visit a licensed massage therapist. Massage chairs, a piece of furniture you can add to your home, are recommended by many doctors for your overall health and wellbeing.

Benefit 5: Helps with Anxiety and Depression

5: Helps with Anxiety and Depression

As we learnt earlier, massage is excellent for calming the mind and improving your mood.

Scientists believe that it positively affects many aspects of our mental health.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health carried out clinical trials that proved massage can help with easing depression.

And there’s more:

A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience revealed that women diagnosed with breast cancer who had a session three times a week, reported being less depressed and angry.

That’s not all:

The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that patients who were depressed and anxiety-ridden had lower stress levels after regular therapy.

Benefit 6: Reduces Headaches

6: Reduces Headaches

A pretty common reaction when you have a headache or migraine is to reach for the painkillers .

However massage therapy can be an effective pain management alternative.

We already know that massage works wonders for stress and sleep problems, and these are common migraine triggers.

The American Massage Therapy Association states we shouldn’t dismiss the therapy because the data is limited, as this is due to the lack of funding available to support research.

There are still studies that show a connection between massage and migraine relief.

A randomized controlled trial showed that those who received two 30-minute treatments for five weeks reported a substantial reduction in the amount of migraine attacks.

Research looking at the effects of Thai massage reported a significant drop in the intensity of migraines for participants who received nine sessions over a three-week period.

If you’re stressed you’re more likely to be prone to headaches and migraines — a craniosacral (CST) massage is shown to help.

CST is a very gentle hands-on technique that relieves compression in the head, back and neck.

Benefit 7: Counteracts the Effects of Prolonged Sitting

7: Counteracts the Effects of Prolonged Sitting

Sitting for long periods of time can be just as deadly for us as smoking!

We’re designed to move but sometimes we don’t get the right amount of movement and end up sitting for hours on end, usually because of work.

Don’t worry, there’s good news: 

You can get moving through massage!

The Massage Centre in the UK explains that it counteracts the effects of leading a sedentary lifestyle.

It can improve mobility, encouraging muscles to start moving by softening and relaxing them, and increase circulation, as the pressure applied helps blood flow more easily.

Sitting down for long periods of time can also cause depression, which the therapy can improve by settling our hormone levels.

It can even wake up your glutes!

Benefit 8: Improves Flexibility

8: Improves Flexibility

Massage therapy is focused on relaxing muscles, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments and joints.

Unsurprisingly it can improve how flexible you are by making your joints more fluid and less likely to experience injury.

Leading an active lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t experience benefits from massage.

In fact, it’s even more important for people who have a physically active lifestyle, as loose muscles are less likely to experience a strain or sprain during exercise.

One project that looked at the impact of massage on the ankle joint and plantar flexors suggests that it can increase flexibility.

Amazingly it doesn’t reduce the power in the plantar flexors and may be an alternative to static stretching during an athletic warm-up.

The Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions, backed this up, discovering that massage immediately following static stretching increases flexibility.

Benefit 9: Helps Maintain Good Posture

9: Helps Maintain Good Posture

You need to understand what bad posture is before you can understand how massage helps with good posture.

Poor posture is caused by the spinal cord staying in a bent position for long periods of time, increasing pressure on joints and ligaments.

Over the course of time this leads to a posture that is tough on muscles and joints, and is more common than you might think.

Massage can correct bad posture.

There are three techniques than can help rectify the issue: sports, deep tissue and Swedish.

Benefit 10: Reduces Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

10: Reduces Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

If you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) then you’re going to want to book in for a massage.

Some studies indicate that a massage may help to calm the sympathetic nervous system.

This is basically the part which is responsible for involuntary responses to dangerous or stressful situations and can lead your blood pressure to shoot up.

It also helps to produce serotonin which creates a feel-good mood that is beneficial for your heart.

A number of studies have indicated that different types of massage can lower blood pressure.

For example, research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, involved 58 women going through the menopause.

After two months of weekly 30-minute sessions, they experienced a drop in blood pressure levels.

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine looked at various styles of massage and the effects on blood pressure.

Interestingly they found that Swedish massage, a gentle and relaxing technique, reduced blood pressure.

Whereas trigger point, a more intense style as it involves pressing on painful areas, raised blood pressure.

Benefit 11: Improves Circulation

11: Improves Circulation

One essential process that is going on in your body right now is blood circulation and it plays a crucial role in keeping you healthy.

The heart is busy pumping blood, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells, as well as removing waste created by your organs.

Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago discovered that massage therapy isn’t just great at alleviating muscle soreness, but can also improve general blood flow.

Even if you don’t exercise, you can improve your vascular function through massage.

Benefit 12: Boosts Focus

12: Boosts Focus

It’s pretty common in this day and age, especially living in a world filled with technology, for our attention spans to be short.

The mind drifts off so easily but massage can help to improve our ability to focus.

Did you know that in order for you to become more attentive your heart rate needs to be lowered?

During a massage your heart rate is actually slowed down.

So when you’re having a session the drop in your heart rate will actually improve how much you can concentrate.

Benefit 13: Benefits the Digestive System

13: Benefits the Digestive System

Abdominal massage is a gentle technique that can help to heal bloating, constipation and digestive issues.

Massaging the abdomen can relax stomach muscles, stimulate digestion and ease constipation.

Research from 2016 analyzed the impact on constipation that can occur post-surgery.

They learnt that participants who had a massage experienced less symptoms of constipation, more bowel movements and shorter time between them.

Another study conducted in 2018 looked at the effects of abdominal massage on the digestive issues of people with an endotracheal tube.

Patients that had a 15-minute treatment twice a day for three days showed improvements compared to those that didn’t have any treatment.

They also experienced a reduction in stomach liquid, abdominal circumference and constipation.

Benefit 14: Increases Range of Motion

14: Increases Range of Motion

If your muscles are stiff, tight and tense then it’s likely you’re not going to be able to move freely, that’s where a massage can come to the rescue.

The American Massage Therapy Association states that muscle tension can be reduced through massage.

Just think, if a muscle is moving in a constrained way, the fibers create knots, restricting the range of motion.

During treatment your muscles fibers are stretched and this enables more flexibility.

There’s also a whole heap of scientific evidence on this very topic:

A systematic review and meta-analysis of seven studies, examining the effectiveness of massage therapy on the range of motion of the shoulder, showed that massage therapy actually improves it.

Particularly when it comes to flexion (bending) and abduction (pulling away from the midline of the body).

The technique you opt for is important — sports massage showed the largest significant effect. Soft tissue massage was reported to reduce shoulder pain.

Being active can be a curse as well as a blessing, because even though you’re getting fitter, you’re more likely to experience muscle fatigue, joint stress and pain.

However, incorporating sports massage into your training plan can help to ease any pain, promote healing from injuries and increase the range of motion.

And if that’s not enough, it can also reduce muscle inflammation, allow for better sleep and reduce anxiety.

Benefit 15: Improves Physical Fitness

15: Improves Physical Fitness

Researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Pittsburgh discovered that massage “increases the percentage of regenerating muscle fibers,” especially immediately after exercise.

It’s an essential way to aid recovery time between very intense workouts, according to Dr. Melissa Leber, Assistant Professor of Orthopedics and Emergency Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine.

Leber explains that it’s not just for fitness fanatics!

It’s helpful for people of all levels and suggests it’s also useful before workouts as it can help “clear the mind” to prepare for your next training session.

One tool favored by people looking to boost their fitness levels is a percussion massage gun.

Percussive therapy has a number of health advantages including enhanced athletic performance.

There are lots available on the market — from the more advanced Theragun (that you may find a little pricey although it packs a powerful punch) to many cheaper alternatives.

Benefit 16: Reduces Muscle Spasms

16: Reduces Muscle Spasms

The feeling of tight and tender muscles is really uncomfortable.

Thankfully there are lots of things you can try to help ease the pain, loosen muscles and even stop spasms from occurring in the first place.

You guessed it, one of the them is massage!

The University of Minnesota has shared some of the science behind this:

Massage therapy cuts down nerve compression. When your muscles contract and become tense they actually compress the nerves surrounding them.

During a massage, when they become relaxed, the nerves aren’t compressed and receive much-needed nutrients.

It’s a winner therapy because you’ll relax muscles tissues and reduce any painful spasms.

A relaxing style is shiatsu, but if you’re able to handle something more intense, try a deep tissue message to get rid of those knots.

Benefit 17: Decompresses Your Spine

17: Decompresses Your Spine

An alarming 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some stage in their lives.

Understanding ways to practice spinal decompression will undoubtedly be a game-changer for your overall physical and mental health.

Thai massage is seen as an effective technique to reduce back pain and relieve joint pain while improving flexibility and range of motion.

In Thailand, researchers delved deeper into looking at what Thai massage can do for people with non-specific low back pain.

They split 120 people into two groups, one half were treated with the technique, the other with ‘conservative management techniques’ (including joint mobilization, hot packs and manual stretching).

Both groups experienced significant pain relief.

Something to consider, suggested by Spine Health, is combining massage therapy with another medical treatment such as physical therapy, physician care or chiropractic treatment.

We recommend speaking to your doctor, as they will have a better understanding of your medical history, before you embark on this route.

Benefit 18: Diminishes Cellulite

18: Diminishes Cellulite

Cellulite is hard to eradicate and while nobody has claimed massage will get rid of it, it may be able to improve the appearance by improving circulation, redistributing fat cells and draining excess body fluid.

A pilot study in 2015 found that dry cupping helps with draining fluid, toxins and other chemical byproducts from the body that can improve how cellulite looks.

After five weeks, women in the study saw their cellulite grade decrease from 2.4 to 1.68 after treatment.

One thing to note is that improvements in appearance don’t actually last long and you may find you have to repeat treatments.

Benefit 19: Improves Balance in Older Adults

19: Improves Balance in Older Adults

As we get older, balance becomes more important as we’re more susceptible to falling.

Doing everything we can to improve our balance is an excellent idea, so we don’t end up with any serious injuries!

One way we can do this is through massage.

Postural muscles get weaker with age so this has a negative effect on mobility and balance.

You can rectify this by stretching muscles as it promotes healthy joints and better functionality when it comes to the musculoskeletal system.

A randomized control trial looked at this very topic when it analyzed older adults receiving massage therapy.

Just six weekly sessions saw immediate and long-term improvements in their postural stability and even blood pressure.

Benefit 20: Helps Manage Cancer Treatment Side Effects

20: Helps Manage Cancer Treatment Side Effects

As explained by Cancer Research, lots of patients turn to massage because it makes them feel good.

It can lift your mood, help with sleep and is beneficial for your overall wellbeing.

Massage is also a natural way to help with pain, anxiety, headaches and stress, common symptoms experienced by those battling cancer.

One clinical trial focused on breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Patients welcomed a distraction from their discomfort, mood improvements, feelings of relaxation, and a confirmation of caring.

Massage acted as an escape from the unwanted and unsettling feelings of chemotherapy. 

Another randomized clinical trial assessed the effect of massage therapy (Swedish) on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in patients aged 4-18. Results found it reduced all of these symptoms.

It also allows families to become more involved in the treatment process, as there are a number of products you can gift someone to enjoy in their own home.

Benefit 21: Tempers Effects of Dementia

21: Tempers Effects of Dementia

According to the World Health Organization, more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, with nearly 10 million new cases every year.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% of cases.

Founder of the Center for Compassionate Touch, Ann Catlin explains:

People with Alzheimer’s disease don’t lose the capacity for human emotion or recognition of a caring touch… What I’ve seen is that even a person in the very late, severe state of Alzheimer’s retains all these capacities.

It may also reduce feelings of confusion and anxiety, while you’re building trust and helping to calm the patient who may be generally agitated.

Massage can even relieve isolation, boredom and loneliness.

Benefit 22: Alleviates PMS

22: Alleviates PMS

Approximately three out of every four menstruating women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

There are lots of signs and symptoms including mood swings, tender breasts, cravings, tiredness, irritability and depression.

Women suffering from PMS may turn to natural remedies such as herbal teas, or mind and body practices such as meditation and yoga — massage should also be on this list!

Rachel Beider, owner of Massage Williamsburg in New York, offers a ‘Moon Cycle Massage’ for women with PMS to help alleviate emotional and physical symptoms.

A double-blind clinical trial looked at the effectiveness of aromatic oil massage on women suffering with menstrual cramps and found it to be great for easing discomfort.

Participants not only experienced a reduction in pain levels but also duration.

Cramps decreased from 2.4 days to 1.8 days which is significant if you’re crippled with pain.

Benefit 23: Relieves Labor Pain

23: Relieves Labor Pain

Several studies have outlined how massage is a natural way to induce relaxation during labor, reduce pain, ease muscle spasms and increase physical activity.

Massage and acupressure have been proven to reduce pain, anxiety, the amount of drugs required during labor and the chance of cesarean section, as well as shortening delivery duration and the length of time spent in hospital.

There’s a lack of research around which is the most effective and whether the two treatments combined increased efficacy.

Interestingly many post-term pregnant women turn to acupressure as an alternative way to induce labour.

There is evidence that low back massage can significantly impact on reducing labor pain, shortening delivery time and increasing feelings of satisfaction with the birth.

The Journal of Caring Sciences has explained that combining massage therapy and breathing techniques can reduce the severity of pain.

Benefit 24: Eases Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

24: Eases Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that affects the musculoskeletal system.

As well as widespread pain, people suffering may also have fatigue, sleep problems and issues with their memory.

Anything to ease the symptoms for sufferers is important.

Fortunately, the American Massage Therapy Association has shared that massage therapy can play a role.

In addition, a review and meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials, found that massage therapy over five weeks or more had immediate effects when it came to improving pain, anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia patients.

However, it’s also important to understand that some of the conclusions drawn from the research are inconsistent, so larger scale studies are required.

Benefit 25: Positive Effects on Skin Conditions

25: Positive Effects on Skin Conditions

Skin is the body’s largest organ and is an important barometer when it comes to human health and wellness.

There’s no escaping touching skin during a massage as it covers those all important muscles, tissues and joints.

Daniel Grabell, MD, a dermatologist at Princeton Dermatology in New Jersey, explains stress triggers many skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and even eczema.

By easing stress through massage, patients can relieve the symptoms of these conditions.

Scientific Reports published research that showed just 10 minutes of treatment can kick-start the body’s physiological defences against stress.

Massage therapy has also been proven to help with skin conditions in young children.

In one study, children treated at a burn trauma unit received a 30-minute session before a change of dressing and were more relaxed during the procedure.

Another project that look at children with eczema, found that those who received a massage during the application of skin medication showed less anxiety and the condition slightly improved.

That said, certain skin conditions shouldn’t be treated with a massage, so it’s essential to speak to your physician before starting any new treatment.

Which style should you choose?

Now you know all the amazing health advantages, you need to choose which technique is right for you!

We’ve written an article covering the different massage types and their benefits to help you decide.

Laura Smith


Laura Smith

Associate Editorial Manager

Specialist health & wellbeing writer, passionate about discovering new technologies & sharing the latest research.