This is a tricky question with no straightforward answer. No, massage cannot replace pills or surgery that provide an “instant fix”. Massage cannot guard against the effect of substance abuse (smoking/drinking/etc), lack of exercise and poor nutrition. These daily habits have a large impact on mental and physical health that will eventually lead to major health issues and complications if not properly maintained. However, over time massage can help to reduce the impact of unhealthy habits, repetitive motion on the physical body and help to reduce daily stress on the mental and emotional body. In this sense massage is a long-term healthcare investment and may help to lower healthcare costs in the long run by decreasing the need for surgery and/or medication.
In this fashion massage is a preventative health care measure as it helps to increase mind-body awareness and keep the effects of mental and physical stress at bay. Regular massage is effective in preventing injury, and providing physical maintenance to fascial, muscle and connective tissues patterns (Moyer, Rounds, & Hannum, 2004). This may help decrease soreness in muscles, increase range of motion in joints and promotes healing after injury or surgery. Nerve compression may be alleviated and relieving acute or chronic pain, decreasing the need for painful injections, painkillers and future surgeries. As muscles become suppler over time there circulation may increase, lowering blood pressure and increasing in the production of endorphins, such as dopamine and serotonin that are responsible for mood elevation. If the client were to follow a regular massage therapy treatment plan, or incorporate it into their wellness plan, they could possibly see a reduction in the cost of talk therapy or money spent on medication.
As we become more aware of our bodies and how we use them we may be able to indentify problems and address the underlying issues before they become full blown injuries. The same can be said for an individual’s mental state; if we continue to live within a reoccurring stress cycle eventually we reach a breaking point. Massage has been shown to decrease pain cycles, depression, anxiety and improved sleep patterns (Moyer, Rounds, & Hannum, 2004). As conditions such as these improve the individual may have time and space for insight regarding destructive or negative habits. In this way massage may save time and money when utilized as a maintenance tool decreasing the likelihood of mental or physical problems from occurring and promoting over all good health.
REFERENCE: Moyer, C. A., Rounds, J., & Hannum, J. W. (2004). A Meta-Analysis of Massage Therapy Research. Psychological Bulletin, 130(1), 3-18.