In this review, massage therapy has been shown to have beneficial effects on varying conditions including prenatal depression, preterm infants, full-term infants, autism, skin conditions, pain syndromes including arthritis and fibromyalgia, hypertension, autoimmune conditions including asthma and multiple sclerosis, immune conditions including HIV and breast cancer and aging problems including Parkinson's and dementia. Although many of the studies have involved comparisons between massage therapy and standard treatment control groups, several have compared different forms of massage (e.g. Swedish versus Thai massage), and different active therapies such as massage versus exercise. Typically, the massage therapy groups have experienced more positive effects than the control or comparison groups. This may relate to the massage therapy providing more stimulation of pressure receptors, in turn enhancing vagal activity and reducing cortisol levels. Some of the researchers have assessed physical, physiological and biochemical effects, although most have relied exclusively on self-report measures. Despite these methodological problems and the dearth of research from the U.S., the massage therapy profession has grown significantly and massage therapy is increasingly practiced in traditional medical settings, highlighting the need for more rigorous research.
Keywords: Massage therapy research review.
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