When you read about the health benefits of massage you will encounter statements such as: stimulates better postural alignment, increases flexibility and range of motion, strengthens the immune system, alleviates or cures muscular and joint tensions and pains, increases vitality, promotes stress relief, alleviates emotional distress, stimulates blood circulation and lymph drainage, promotes better functioning of internal organs and relieves from fatigue and headaches, and, well, much more.
Nevertheless, in view of the current state of medical science and research, claims of clear undeniable massage therapy benefits for a variety of illnesses and diseases are seen as largely unscientific. In fact, these claims are considered unproven.
In the past decades, plenty of scientific research has been done on the effects of massage, notably on results of several kinds of massage therapies for low-back pain, neck and shoulder pain, knee pain, and headaches, to name the most important studies. Yet, none of those studies are “overwhelmingly” conclusive of the benefits of massage. At best it has been concluded that massage “helps a bit,” “only short-term,” “as a placebo,” “in some cases,” “can be helpful in rehabilitation,” or “maybe,” and such.
That doesn’t mean massage therapy cannot or doesn’t work, it only means that we don’t know exactly how or why it (sometimes) works taken into account our current way of “proving things scientifically.” The only clear scientific evidence of health benefits (that is, giving repeatable results in similar setups) seems to be that regular massage sessions reduce high blood pressure, stress, anxiety and depression in the participants of test-groups.
Well… at least… that’s something. And, as we also know that high blood pressure, stress, anxiety and depression can cause a variety of illnesses, both mentally and physically, I would say that massage therapy (from that standpoint already) can be very helpful.
In any case, with each particular form of massage, the therapy given depends on the individual condition and needs of a patient. Even if two patients seem to suffer from the same illness or discomfort, it doesn’t mean that the treatment will be the same, which, by the way, is of course a horror-scenario for the scientific way of studying phenomena.
Thus, the decision on what kind of treatment exactly to apply will highly depend on this dreadful unscientific thing called “intuition and experience” of the massage therapist. It also means that the health benefits that may be achieved depend much on the qualities of the therapist and the type of techniques applied.
But then again, the latter also counts for the modern medical doctor or surgeon, doesn’t it?