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6 Surprising Benefits of Massage

Experts explain the reasons you can stop making excuses for why you deserve a rub down.

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Massage may help cut down on migraines

If you frequently experience migraine pain, you might consider a massage. Although research is limited, a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that Thai traditional massage (a technique that combines acupressure, Indian Ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures) could increase pain threshold and reduce headache intensity, suggesting it could be a possible treatment for chronic tension-type and migraine headaches. The American Massage Therapy Association has a handy tool to help find a massage therapist near you.

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Massage may help reduce pain

Research indicates that massage therapy may be an effective pain reliever. A review of studies published in 2016 in Pain Medicine Journal, for example, found that massage therapy, compared to no treatment at all, helped reduce pain and improve mood and health-related quality of life.

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Massage may make you look younger

Massages stimulate blood flow, which is why regular gentle rubbing and kneading might keep your face looking healthy and radiant. One reason why: massage plumps slack skin and adds vitality to a dull complexion. “Massage does not increase circulation, as is commonly claimed,” says Laura Allen, a massage therapist in Margate, Forida, an educator, and the author of the Plain & Simple Guide to Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Examinations. “But the mechanical action of massage causes the capillaries just under the skin to dilate, thus making the skin feel warmer, which can give you that glow that some people exhibit.”

Massage may help beat PMS

A massage could banish mood swings, bloating, headaches, weight gain, and other PMS symptoms, according to a small study published in 2000 in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers found that regular massage sessions lessened symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in women age 19 to 45.

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Massage may have benefits for chronic pain relief

People with chronic soft tissue pain (arthritis, fibromyalgia, disc problems, degenerative joints) may be helped by massage therapy sessions, says Nancy M. Porambo, a licensed massage therapist in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania and spokesperson for the American Massage Therapy Association. “My personal experience working with clients suffering from [this type of pain] has been extremely positive,” she says. “People are surprised when they find relief through application of specific massage therapy techniques.” Keep in mind that while massage may be helpful, a few sessions may not be enough to alleviate chronic pain.

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Massage may help treat side effects of cancer

A review of studies published in 2015 in Integrative Cancer Therapies found that massage therapy reduced pain in cancer patients compared to the conventional standard-of-care alone, and was particularly effective in relieving surgery-related pain.

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Medically reviewed by Ashley Matskevich, MD, on November 11, 2019