How Therapeutic Massage Works (for medical professionals)

Welcome, Doctor!

This article is meant to help you understand the physiological effects of massage. In other words, why it works. Many of the studies this information is pulled from can be found here.

Below that is a list of statements about massage therapy with links to corresponding studies.

At the bottom you will find links to popular consumer-friendly websites regarding the benefits of massage therapy that you can share with your patients.

When you’re finished you may wish to call me (941-321-5311) to set up an appointment and discuss how medical massage in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch will be beneficial to your patients, or to explore other medical massage topics on this site that will help you ensure every patient receives a high standard of care.

(Not a medical professional? I have similar information about the many benefits of massage in Lakewood Ranch in a layman-friendly format.)

Massage helps to increase muscle healing while reducing inflammation.

  • Massage reduces production of cytokenes
  • Massage stimulates mitochondria, which assists with biogenesis
  • Enhanced circulation locally assists with tissue nutrition and hydration as well as waste exchange

Massage helps to reduce anxiety, depression, stress and in turn can help with a number of related complaints.

  • Massage decreases cortisol levels
  • Massage stimulates oxytocin
  • Moderate touch during massage increases vagal activity
  • Massage increases parasympathetic nervous system response
  • Massage can increase serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels
  • Frontal delta brainwaves are increased during treatments

Massage reduces or eliminates “trigger points” or “knots” and helps increase range of motion:

  • Myofascial release occurs via thixotrophy as the matrix of the ground substance of the endomysium, perimysium, epimysium, and investing facia turns more sol, allowing for ease of movement and better exchange of nutrients and cellular wastes
  • Friction and the heat it creates allows extra hydrogen bonds between sarcomeres to let go, allowing a chronically tight muscle to “unvelcro”
  • Scar tissue and adhesions are manually broken up with cross-fiber friction, which also greatly increase local circulation

Other physiological effects:

  • Blood velocity, arterial dilatation, and blood flow is increased (study)

Please check out “The Fuzz Speech” video on YouTube. It’s very worth the six minutes of your time and has excellent cadaver and practical illustrations by a leading anatomist that will help you understand a lot of what massage therapy does. This article excerpt also helps explain why massage therapy is such a beneficial and safe modality:

R.B. Taylor, an osteopathic physician, has stated that, “Manipulative pressure and stretching are the most effective ways of modifying the energy potentials of abnormal tissues.” Note well the principle involved here: Nothing chemical or structural has been either added to or subtracted from the connective tissue. Rather, by means of pressure and stretching, and the friction they generate, the temperature and therefore the energy level of the tissue has merely been raised slightly. This added energy in turn promotes a more fluid ground substance which is more sol and ductile, and in which nutrients and cellular wastes can conduct their exchanges more efficiently. In addition to this mechanical stimulation of pressure and stretching, a powerful thermodynamic effect can be produced upon the bioenergetic field of the patient by the stronger and healthier bioenergetic field of the therapist. This comes partly in the form of literal body heat transferred by the therapist’s penetrating touch, and partly from subtler forms of energy such as galvanic skin responses or vibratory rhythms.


Thus, with regard to its effects upon the connective tissues, bodywork accomplishes its end in an utterly different fashion than do the additive and subtractive means of pharmaceuticals and surgery. Skillful manipulation simply raises energy levels and creates a greater degree of sol (fluidity) in organic systems that are already there, but are behaving sluggishly. The effect can be analogous to that of turning up the temperature and humidity in a greenhouse that has been too dry and cold.


Studies have shown that:

  • Massage benefits patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (study) and Osteoarthritis (study) and MS (study).
  • Improves the long-term outcome of patients with long-term back pain who receive injections. (study)
  • Massage can have a beneficial effect on disability rating following fusion surgery of the lumbar spine (study)
  • Massage helps with non-specific low back pain (study) (study)
  • Massage helps with cervical disc degeneration disease, decreasing pain and increasing range of motion, and increasing ability to do functional activities (study)
  • Massage can reduce or delay the use of epidural analgesia (study)
  • Pregnancy massage reduces prematurity, low birth weight and postpartum depression. It also reduces anxiety, leg pain, back pain, excessive fetal activity. Labors are on average 3 hours shorter with less need for medication. (study)
  • Headache patients massage that receive massage therapy reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache free days, fewer sleep disturbances, and they showed an increase in serotonin levels. (study)
  • Massage therapy significantly reduced the pain, anxiety, and muscular tension and improves relaxation and satisfaction after cardiac surgery. (study)
  • Has a positive effect on patients with lyme disease (study)
  • In a study of nurses who suffer from occupational back pain massage was effective in reducing occupational low back pain, and provided improvement in activities of work and life. (study)
  • AND SO MANY MORE… Check out the University of Miami’s School of Medicine’s Touch Research Institute which has done over 100 studies on the topic.

The Touch Research Institute has conducted over 100 studies on the positive effects of massage therapy on many functions and medical conditions in many different age groups. Among the significant research findings are enhanced growth (e.g. in preterm infants), diminished pain (e.g. fibromyalgia), decreased autoimmune problems (e.g., increased pulmonary function in asthma and decreased glucose levels in diabetes), enhanced immune function (e.g., increased natural killer cells in HIV and cancer), and enhanced alertness and performance (e.g., EEG pattern of alertness and better performance on math computations). Many of these effects appear to be mediated by decreased stress hormones.

The AMTA did a survey to see how the average consumer views massage. View the results here.

Here is a list of consumer-friendly websites with information about the benefits of massage that may be helpful for your patients:

Please call me at 941-321-5311 to discuss how we can partner together to give your patients in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, and Bradenton the best medical massage therapy experience possible to meet your clinical goals.