Types of Massage Therapy Outcomes

Sandy Fritz, in her book describes these four main outcomes for massage therapy.

Massage therapy is provided based on four categories of care related to each client’s goals and adaptive capacity:
1. Palliative care
2. Restorative care
3. Condition management
4. Therapeutic change

Fritz, Sandy; Fritz, Luke. Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage – E-Book (Kindle Locations 9614-9617). Elsevier Health Sciences. Kindle Edition.

Any type of massage can achieve any of those outcomes depending on how the method is applied.

Clinical Outcomes:

A clinical outcome is a change in a patient’s signs and symptoms, mental state, or ability to cope. Clinical outcomes are changes in the effects of a disease, injury, or exercise on how a person functions. A clinical outcome tells us whether massage helps or “works.


  • Clinical outcomes are often measured with client self-reports (“My pain is better”), questionnaires, or scales (“My pain is a 3 on a 0-10 scale”).
  • Some are “objective” third-party observations: function, range of motion,results from palpation, athletic performance, or observations by nurses.”   Tracy Walton.  5 Myths and Truths about Massage. (PDF)

Mechanistic Outcomes

What are Mechanistic Outcomes?
A mechanistic outcome is a change in a biological substance, mechanism, or pathway. A mechanistic outcome or mechanism of action may explain how massage works.
●In massage therapy, researchers looking at biochemical changes are measuring mechanistic outcomes.
●Examples of mechanistic outcomes are changes in epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, blood sugar, endorphin levels, cortisol, and even changes in gene expression.
●Mechanistic studies of massage might involve samples
of saliva, blood, urine, or tissue.
●Ultrasound and other imaging can help us examine mechanisms of action.Tracy Walton.  5 Myths and Truths about Massage. (PDF)