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I used to get a massage in China once in a while, but when I went for one here in the USA the place was full of homeopathy, mineral spays and other junk. It is almost enough to put me off the whole practice. So I was wondering:

Is there any well-researched benefit to massage apart from a nice relaxing time? Or is any pain relief, etc. simply a placebo effect?

  • If you talk about placebo effects, what kind of blind control would you propose? – Christian May 8 '11 at 12:06
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    @Christian lying on a massage table but not getting massaged? – John Lyon May 9 '11 at 2:39
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    @Christian I was thinking more like a trained masseuse vs. some guy arbitrarily moving the skin about. . . – JIStone May 9 '11 at 3:23
  • go to The Touch Research Institute web site. Just google it and it'll come up. They are at the University of Miami. – user2534 May 9 '11 at 17:41
  • Any pain relief wouldn't be a placebo effect if experienced during the massage, I also expect it wouldn't matter to the person experiencing the relief! I suspect the question should be more "is there any evidence of long term pain relief or is it simply a temporary effect?" Or "Is massage therapy no better than placebo in pain relief?" – Keir Liddle Jun 19 '11 at 2:21
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The Cochrane collaboration has performed a number of meta-analysis on the claimed benefits of massage therapy.

http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab001929.html

In the case of lower back pain massage might be beneficial for patients with subacute (lasting four to 12 weeks) and chronic (lasting longer than 12 weeks) non-specific low-back pain, especially when combined with exercises and education.

http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab004871.html

No firm conclusions can be drawn looking at neck pain.

There are a number of other reviews exploring the issue however it is difficult to answer this question fully as what is considered "traditional" massage will vary from culture to culture and country to country.

For some types of massage there will be effective pain relief and for others there will not.

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