Can massage therapy be used for pain management? We asked an expert

A massage expert tells us about the effectiveness and health benefits of massage therapy

Can massage therapy be used for pain management, Wellness tips
(Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels)

If you’ve had a tough week or are feeling any back or neck pain, scheduling a massage or settling into one of the best massage chairs (opens in new tab) sounds like the perfect solution. 

Not only are massages relaxing and soothing, but we’ve seen tons of studies that say massage chairs are good for you (opens in new tab), specifically for reducing pain, helping with circulation and improving quality of life. However, many experts remain unconvinced about the benefits of massage chairs so we thought we’d talk to an expert to find out if they can really help with pain.

T3 spoke to Human Touch (opens in new tab), a leading manufacturer of high performance and ergonomic massage chairs, recliners and massage products. The brand has over 40 years of experience in improving health and wellbeing, so we spoke to them about how massage therapy can help with pain and can even be a healthy alternative to painkillers.

Does massage therapy help with pain?

The best massagers (opens in new tab) are designed to knead away aches, banish knots and soothe muscles, but when it comes to targeted pain, many people avoid massages or massage chairs and steer towards pain relief instead.

However, a study reported by The Washington Post (opens in new tab) in 2011 found that massages were better for back pain than drugs and therapy. The study of 400 adults over a 10 week period found that an hour long massage reduced pain and improved day-to-day activities over painkillers.

With this in mind, Human Touch conducted their own research in 2014 and followed up with secondary research in 2022. The study concentrated on customers that bought their massage chairs and found that before they started using massage chairs regularly, 51% of people took medication to reduce pain. The results from the study showed that 49% of people who experienced pain took less medication after using a massage chair and 14% of these people stopped using pain medication altogether. You can read the full results at Human Touch (opens in new tab).

Massage chair benefits

(Image credit: Human Touch)

Speaking to Human Touch, they said: “Massage is one of the alternative activities to drug use that doesn’t interact with medications or cause symptoms to worsen. It can help combat many symptoms, like swelling, pain and anxiety.”

Further studies also suggest that massage therapy can help with sleeping problems and other conditions including headaches, insomnia, tension, joint pain and muscle fatigue.

  • Having trouble sleeping? Check out our guide to the best mattress (opens in new tab)

The best types of massage to relieve pain

According to Human Touch, massages of all kinds are used to relieve pain. Massage therapy like deep tissue, heat therapy, hot stones, Thai, Swedish and Shiatsu have all been reported to help with pain management, specifically heat massages which are said to ease swelling, inflammation and tight muscles. Massages have also been proven to help circulation (opens in new tab), with Swedish and deep tissue massages reported to be the best at targeting stiffness and injuries.

If you’re looking to soothe tension and pain at home, a massage chair could definitely fit into your lifestyle and help get rid of any pain symptoms, especially in your back and neck. The best foam rollers (opens in new tab) and the best massage guns (opens in new tab) are great for easing sore muscles, aiding recovery and encouraging blood flow, so there are many different tools you can use to help your body feel its best.

So, if you’re experiencing pain and want a solution that’s not paracetamol, a massage chair could help ease your symptoms.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Acting Wellness Editor & Deals Writer

As T3's resident Shopping Expert and Deals Writer, Beth covers deals, discount codes, how to save money and seasonal holidays, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day, Boxing Day and Easter sales. Alongside her primary focus of deals, Beth is currently Acting Wellness Editor, covering all things sleep, yoga, relaxation and general wellbeing.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting DIY craft projects that will probably end in disaster!