Placebo Effects of Massage and Energy Healing

Published: Aug 5, 2022 | Revised: Jan 20, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Placebo Effects in Massage and Energy Healing

Massage therapy and energy healing, in view of the current state of medical science and research, have no undisputable, objective, and repeatable evidence-based health benefits, and as such claims of being able “to heal” a variety of illnesses and diseases are considered unscientific. In fact, positive outcomes of massage therapy or energy healing are — by many — considered to be the result of a placebo effect.

Placebo and Placebo Effect

A placebo is generally defined as a substance or treatment that is designed (or considered) to have no known therapeutic value. This may include things like non-functional tablets or injections, or other procedures or treatments that are considered non-functional.

The placebo effect then is a beneficial, therapeutic outcome by applying a basically non-functional substance or treatment. It simply means that a patient reports improvement of their health condition(s), for instance, experiencing less pains, after taking or undergoing the placebo.

It’s thought that the patient’s health improvement can come about when they have positive expectations, that is, a belief that a treatment or substance (which is scientifically considered non-functional) will work.

Massage Therapy and Energy Healing: Placebo or Not?

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Massage therapy and energy healing both work, have results, and can heal or alleviate a range of health complaints such as low-back pain, neck and shoulder pain, knee pain, and headaches, among many other conditions. However, the same treatment applied to different persons who have the same health complaint, doesn’t necessarily yield the same health benefits; for some people it works, for others not.

Because of the above, both massage therapy and energy healing are considered unscientific, because they are in essence “not to be counted on” as giving objective, repeatable results when applying the same treatment. Nevertheless, placebo or not, there is scientific evidence that regular massage and/or energy healing sessions do structurally reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in the participants of test-groups.

The latter is very important data, because we also know (and scientifically accept, by the way) that stress, anxiety, and depression can cause a variety of physical illnesses (due to a psychosomatic effect), including aggravated mental health conditions, and as such massage therapy and/or energy healing can at least have a recognized function as preventive medicine.

And Finally

So, placebo effect or not — who really cares? If a person believes in the health benefits a certain treatment will bring, and if the treatment works, even if it’s only sometimes, for some things, in some situations, and in unpredictable ways (and doesn’t harm the patient), why not give it a try?

If we, for instance, can experience emotional release or relaxation, prevent or get rid of stress, anxiety, back pains, headaches, or other complaints and pains by having massages or energy healing sessions, it seems to me that those treatments should be supported and deserve a rightful place as therapeutic healing modalities.

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