Massage Therapy is a holistic health practice that involves the manual manipulation of the body’s musculoskeletal tissues. While massage treatments have long been a part of medical history, some of the most popular modalities or styles were not invented until fairly recently.
For example, the most popular modality, Swedish Massage, was invented around 1870 by Johann George Mezger, who codified the modality into the five techniques that are still used today.
The five techniques of Swedish Massage, are:
- Effleurage- Long, gliding or circular massage strokes
- Petrissage-Kneading, squeezing, and/or rolling
- Friction-Therapeutic rubbing
- Vibration-Rhythmically shaking an area of the body to loosen and relax the body.
- Tapotement-Rhythmic tapping across patient’s body
Swedish Massage Therapy is commonly associated with relaxation and as such, it is popularly sought for mental and physical relief. However, is there any scientific merit to back the popular belief?
In this article, we will analyze the health benefits of Swedish massage by reviewing peer-reviewed studies that have tested the modality in a clinical setting.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the US, affecting nearly 40 million people. While it is easy to treat and manage, roughly 36.9% of those affected do not seek treatment. Physical symptoms of anxiety include a fast heart rate, high blood pressure, muscle tension, and headaches. If there is enough evidence to show that Swedish massage can treat the physiological symptoms of anxiety, then it could potentially become an approved, alternative treatment to prescription anxiety medicine, since it is physically non-invasive and has few health risks associated with it.
This is good news since elevated blood pressure can have long-term health consequences. Additionally, a high pulse rate damages heart tissue and could potentially trigger a heart attack. Even if an MI does not occur, a racing heart combined with an elevated temperature and hyperventilating can lead to a full-blown anxiety attack.
Given that Swedish Massage shows promise in treating the physical symptoms associated with anxiety, it would seem logical to assume that lower-anxiety levels were recorded following each Swedish Massage treatment.
Interestingly enough, anxiety-levels did not decrease. Or rather, they did not decrease by any significant amount. The white paper suggests that the method used to measure anxiety was an inadequate method for accurately measuring anxiety-levels after each massage therapy since it required a longer than optimal waiting time between the end of the treatment and the measurement occurs.