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Do Massages Really Help Relieve Pain?

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Dec 16, 2022

Do Massages Really Help Relieve Pain?

Many people regularly get massages to help deal with body aches and muscle pain. However, you may be curious about the science behind pain relief and massages. Here is a quick look at massage therapy benefits and how you can use them to improve your own wellbeing.

How Do Massages Relieve Pain?

Massages create physiological changes in a person’s body. These changes cause two types of responses that lead to emotional and physical benefits.

Relaxation Response

The first response is the relaxation response. It is an involuntary response from your nervous system.

A relaxation response is a huge reason why people experience pain relief. Your breath and heart rate slow down along with your blood pressure. The relaxation response also makes your muscles relax and decrease the production of stress hormones.

This relaxation response can help reduce the physical effects that stress gives a person. Additionally, it can decrease risks that come from stress like digestive disorders, anxiety,  persistent fatigue, insomnia, etc.

Mechanical Response

When you apply pressure to the soft tissues, it creates the second response called a mechanical response. This response helps increase the blood and lymph circulation because chemicals are released thanks to the relaxation response, while the soft tissue is being physically manipulated.

One of the most well-known massage therapy benefits is improved blood circulation, which can help cells better deliver nutrients and oxygen to muscles. Massage helps tissues efficiently function, reduce soft tissue swelling, and improve the absorption of excess fluids.

Additionally, massages are well-loved by those who frequently experience muscle spasms and painful contractions because it can help relieve the pain. Along with that, massages can help decrease nerve compression, which can reduce your chances of getting a pinched nerve.

What Kind of Massages Will Relieve Pain?

Massages can help relieve pain, but to get the best results it would be ideal to choose the right massage for you. Here are some common types of massages:

Swedish Massage

A full-body gentle massage that is very common is called a Swedish massage. It is a great massage for first-timers and for those who are sensitive to touch and have a lot of tension. A massage therapist uses movements such as kneading, deep circular motions, and tapping, among others, to help release muscle knots.

Deep Tissue Massage

A Deep Tissue Massage is somewhat similar to a Swedish massage. But as you can guess from the name, there is more pressure involved. A massage therapist helps relieve tension in a person’s deepest layers of connective tissues and muscles by using deep finger pressure and slow strokes. While it may be a more intense massage, you should not experience soreness or pain.

Hot Stone Massage

Getting a hot stone massage is ideal for anyone who has tension and muscle pain. This type of massage can improve blood flow, relieve stress, and treats pain. In this massage, a therapist places heated stones on various parts of the body and may use Swedish massage techniques and gentle pressure to massage you while holding a stone. Some therapists may also offer cold stone massages.

Trigger Point Massage

For people with specific conditions/issues, injuries, or chronic pain, a Trigger Point Massage may be the ideal choice for you. This type of massage focuses on relieving your “trigger points,” which are specific points on your body that are normally the cause of pain.

Do Essential Oils Enhance Massage Therapy Benefits?

The benefits of essential oils are taking the world by storm. Massages are usually accompanied by the use of essential oils. Essential oils can help enhance massage therapy benefits.


In fact, a popular type of massage that uses essential oils is called aromatherapy. Not only does this type of massage help relieve pain, but it can also do the following:

  • Boost your mood
  • Energizes you
  • Treats insomnia
  • Calms you if you are anxious or stressed
  • Reduce symptoms of depression,

People who want to treat both their physical and emotional pain often opt for aromatherapy massages.

A massage therapist may decide which essential oils are best suited for your condition, You can tell them if you have a preference. Each essential oil can have a different effect. For instance, lavender and chamomile have a calming effect, whereas rosemary oil has an energizing effect.

However, therapists do not directly apply essential oils onto your skin. The oils must always be diluted before application. You will also be inhaling essential oils from a diffuser, while your body absorbs the essential oils being massaged into your skin.

Are There Side Effects from Getting a Massage?

While a massage can generally be a good experience for most people, there are still instances where massages can go wrong (typically from an unlicensed therapist). Some people may also have minor side effects from a massage, but they are often not bothersome enough to report.


An extremely common side effect that you may get from a massage is post-massage soreness and malaise. This is a very slight feeling of soreness that is very manageable for most people and is common from intense massages like deep tissue massages.

Possible Nerve Damage or Bleeding

If the massage was extremely intense, it could cause nerve damage or internal bleeding. However, this is a very rare occurrence.

Allergic Reaction

Additionally, a person may have an allergic reaction to the oils or creams used by the therapist. Therefore, it is important to let your therapist know about your medical history before getting a massage to minimize these risks.

Who Should Avoid Massages?

In general, massages are safe. However, if a person has a pre-existing condition, such as osteoporosis or blood clots, there is a chance that a massage could worsen their symptoms or create complications. However, if a massage therapist avoids certain areas where the condition would be (such as avoiding an open wound) and is gentle, this could make a massage still enjoyable for the receiver.

Key Takeaways

Overall, getting a massage can be a pleasant experience and maybe a simple way to help relieve your pain. While it may not be a cure to pain, it can help some people alleviate their symptoms and feel more relaxed. Book a session with a therapist and experience first-hand the numerous massage therapy benefits.

Learn more about Herbals & Alternatives here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Dec 16, 2022

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