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Int J Clin Pract. 2008 Feb;62(2):325-33. Epub 2007 Dec 11.

Massage therapy for the treatment of depression: a systematic review.

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  • 1Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Exeter, UK.



People with depressive disorders or subsyndromal symptoms of depression (SSD) often use complementary and alternative therapies, including massage therapy (MT). This systematic review evaluates the evidence, from randomised clinical trials (RCTs), for the effectiveness of multiple sessions of classical European (Swedish) MT for the treatment of depression.


Eligible RCTs were identified via eight electronic databases and manual searches of references. Two reviewers independently selected trials, assessed trial quality and extracted data.


Four RCTs met our inclusion criteria. Three of these RCTs compared MT with relaxation therapies, but provided insufficient data and analyses to contribute meaningfully to the evaluation of MT for depression. The fourth included RCT used MT as a control condition to evaluate a depression-specific acupuncture treatment. This trial provided limited evidence that, in the early stages of treatment, MT is less effective than acupuncture for treating depression, a treatment which itself is not accepted for this condition.


Despite previous research suggesting that MT may be an effective treatment for depression, there is currently a lack of evidence to support this assertion from RCTs that have selected participants for depression or SSD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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