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Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 Sep;4(5):56-60. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2015.059. Epub 2015 Sep 1.

Immediate Effect of Therapeutic Massage on Pain Sensation and Unpleasantness: A Consecutive Case Series.

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Crocker Institute, Kiawah Island, South Carolina; Saybrook University, San Francisco, California, United States.


in English, Chinese, Spanish


Musculoskeletal pain is a common condition that poses a significant burden to its sufferers and costs the US economy billions of dollars each year in lost productivity. Individuals complaining of musculoskeletal pain make up a large proportion of clients treated by massage therapists in community practices, yet few studies have examined the immediate effect of therapeutic massage on this type of pain in the practice setting.


To assess the immediate effect of therapeutic massage on musculoskeletal pain sensation and unpleasantness in a community setting.


Solo private practice in central Virginia, United States.


One hundred sixteen first-time clients who complained of musculoskeletal pain as a presenting symptom.


Prospective, consecutive practice-based case series.


A single 60-minute session of individualized therapeutic massage; techniques used included Swedish massage employing effleurage, petrissage, and friction,;deep tissue; myofascial; positional release; passive and resisted joint mobilization; and biofield modalities.


Visual Analog Scales for pain sensation and unpleasantness.


Both pain sensation and unpleasantness were significantly reduced by a single session of therapeutic massage. Mean pain sensation decreased from 3.76 (SD=1.87) prior to massage to .89 (SD=1.35) following massage, with t=18.87, P<.001. Mean pain unpleasantness decreased from 5.21 (SD=2.48) prior to massage to .64 (SD=1.23) following massage, with t =20.45, P<.001. Effect sizes were 1.76 and 1.90, respectively.


In this case series, therapeutic massage appeared to be an effective intervention for common musculoskeletal pain that influenced both the physical and affective dimension of the pain experience. Although care was taken to reduce potential bias through limiting eligibility to first time clients and use of a standardized script, practice-based case series have inherent limitations. Issues in conducting practice-based research by massage therapists and recommendations for future research are discussed.


Massage therapy; case series; musculoskeletal pain

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