Side-effects of massage therapy: a cross-sectional study of 100 clients

J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Oct;13(8):793-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2006.6401.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the amount and type of negative side-effects and positive (unexpected) effects experienced after a massage session.

Study design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Massage clinic at a health sciences university.

Subjects: Of the 100 new and returning massage therapy clients who agreed to participate, 91 completed all survey questions.

Outcome measures: Telephone survey and medical chart review 2-7 days postmassage.

Results: Overall, 10% of the massage clients experienced some minor discomfort after the massage session; however, 23% experienced unexpected, nonmusculoskeletal positive side-effects. The majority of negative symptoms started less than 12 hours after the massage and lasted for 36 hours or less. The majority of positive benefits began immediately after massage and lasted more than 48 hours. No major side-effects occurred during this study.

Conclusions: This the first known study to define the rate of side-effects after massage therapy treatment. These data are important for risk-benefit analyses of massage care. Larger studies are needed to verify these data and to assess effects of different massage types and durations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Back Pain / therapy
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / therapy
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Female
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / adverse effects*
  • Massage / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / therapy
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Pain / etiology
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Treatment Outcome