A trial subjected 68 Group Health patients with anxiety disorder to 10 one-hour sessions in pleasant, relaxing environments, each with a licensed massage therapists who delivered either massage or one of two control treatments: Relaxation therapy – breathing deeply while lying down; Thermotherapy – having arms and legs wrapped intermittently with heating pads and warm towels.
All three treatments were provided while lying down on a massage table in a softly lighted room with quiet music.
The patients were interviewed three months later and asked about their psychological and physical effects of their anxiety.
All three of the groups reported that their symptoms of anxiety had decreased by about 40 percent by the end of treatment and it had also treated their depression. The research team detected no differences among the three groups; but the trial did not include a control group that got no treatment at all.
There was no special effects received from massage alone. Thus it can be concluded that benefits of massage may be due to a generalized relaxation response.