Scientific Study shows the cumulative benefit of frequent massages

By Kathi Baker | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Aug. 14, 2012

Dr. Mark Rapaport, chief author of a study showing there are sustained, cumulative beneficial effects of repeated massage therapy.

Massage is purported to have an array of benefits, including alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety, back pain, asthma, fatigue, and even HIV. A new study shows there are sustained, cumulative beneficial effects of repeated massage therapy. The effects persist for several days to a week, and differ depending on the frequency of sessions. Results of the study were reported on line in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Study researchers, led by Mark Hyman Rapaport, examined the biological effects of repeated Swedish Massage Therapy and light touch intervention. In a prior study, the researchers found that healthy people who undergo a single session of Swedish Massage experience measureable changes in their body’s immune and endocrine response.

“We expanded the study to show the effects of repeated massage because we believed the frequency of massage, or the interval between massages, may have different biological and psychological effects than a single session,” explains Rapaport, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

The study was conducted over a five-week period of time, assessing neuroendocrine and immune parameters. Study volunteers were randomized into four intervention groups to receive a concurrent five weeks of Swedish Massage once a week or twice a week, or a light touch control once a week or twice a week.

“We believe that understanding of the mechanisms of action underlying the effects of massage and light touch in healthy individuals − including the effect of different frequency regimens on different biological systems − will help to guide the design of studies aimed at specific therapeutic effects for targeted populations.”

The study was conducted at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Additional studies are being conducted at Emory.


A single massage can boost the immune system

Devotees of massage therapy know it’s relaxing and feels good. But massage may also be an effective tool for maintaining good health. Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center reported this week that a single massage produced measurable changes in the immune system and endocrine system of healthy adults.

The researchers, led by Dr. Mark Rapaport, studied 29 healthy adults who received a 45-minute Swedish massage and 24 healthy adults who had a 45-minute session of light touch massage, a much milder exercise that served as a comparison to the more vigorous Swedish massage. Blood samples were taken before the massage began and at regular intervals up to one hour after the massage was completed.



Massage Reduces Cancer Patients’ Pain and Anxiety

A seminal study of massage on cancer patients has shown that the intervention reduces the level of pain and anxiety these patients experience during treatment for the disease. The study, conducted over four years at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, sought empirical evidence for the efficacy of massage on cancer patients experiencing pain in the course of treatment.

The study, which concluded in late 1999, was funded by a $10,000 grant from the AMTA Foundation. Its results have been widely reported by national media. For the study, 52 cancer patients receiving treatment at the hospital, which is affiliated with Ohio State University, were randomly placed into either an experimental group or a control group.

On the first day of the two-day study patients in both groups had a volunteer simply sit with them for 15 minutes, but had no physical contact. On the second day patients in the experimental group received petrissage on the hands, feet, shoulders and back of the neck for 15 minutes. Patients in the control group again sat with a volunteer for 15 minutes, but had no physical contact.

Pain and anxiety levels were measured on both days before the intervention, directly following, and again 30 minutes later. Pain levels were measured by a Visual Analogue Scale in which patients rated the severity of their pain on a scale from 0-10, with 0 equaling no pain and 10 equaling the worst pain possible. Anxiety, which was defined as “tension, apprehension, nervousness and worry,” was measured using the Spilberger STAIT-TRAIT Anxiety Inventory, by which patients rated their own anxiety levels.

Data analysis showed the massage had a statistically relevant impact on pain and anxiety levels of patients in the experimental group compared to those in the control group. Overall, patients who received massage showed a .9 difference (drop) in pain level, versus no change in pain level for those in the control group.

“This study is a seminal study that produced empirical evidence on the efficacy of massage on cancer pain and anxiety,” the report concluded. “More hard data studies are needed in order to bring massage in the medical systems where it is most needed.”

An addendum to the study findings was the positive feedback the researchers received from the hospital’s medical staff, in regard to the massage protocol. The study raised the consciousness of the medical practitioners, which was another very positive outcome of this study.

– Source:
Pauline King, Ohio State University.