Massage Therapy Abstracts (2015-2017)

Massage Therapy Abstracts (2015-2017)


McLay LK, France K. Empirical research evaluating non-traditional approaches to managing sleep problems in children with autism. Dev Neurorehabil. 2016;19:123-134.

Method: Eight studies were identified that explored non-behavioral and non-pharmacological approaches to managing sleep problems in these children.

Result: Positive outcomes were reported for massage therapy. We noted in an earlier study that when parents massaged their children with autism before bedtime, the children’s sleep improved (shorter latency to sleep, longer sleep time and fewer nightwakings).

Tsuji S, Yuhi T, Furuhara K, Ohta S, Shimizu Y, Higashida H. Salivary oxytocin concentrations in seven boys with autism spectrum disorder received massage from their mothers: A pilot study. Front Psychiatry. 2015;6:58. Epub ahead of print.

Method: Using mothers as the massagers, the mothers massaged their children with autism for 20 minutes daily for 3 months followed by no massage for 4 months. Saliva was collected to assay oxytocin (the “love hormone”) before and after a session during the treatment and during the control period.

Result: During the massage therapy period both the children and their mothers had higher oxytocin levels.

Bed Sores

Zhang Q, Sun Z, Yue J. Massage for preventing pressure ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;6. Epub ahead of print.

Method: Massage therapy was widely used until the 1950s to prevent and reduce bed sores or ulcers related to immobility in hospitalized patients. Pressure sores reputedly affect some 10% of patients in hospitals.

Result: Despite this problem a recent review of the literature failed to reveal any randomized controlled trials or even quasi-randomized controlled trials that met inclusion criteria for a meta-analysis. Thus there were no studies eligible for this review and it remains uncertain whether massage therapy prevents bed sores.


Celebioglu A, Gurol A, Yildirim ZK, Buyukavci M. Effects of massage therapy on pain and anxiety arising from intraethecal therapy or bone marrow aspiration in children with cancer. Int J Nurs Pract. 2015;21:797-804.

Method: Study used self-report measures. Children with cancer, used visual analogue scales to report their pain and anxiety levels.

Result: Massage therapy was used to reduce anxiety and pain associated with bone marrow aspiration. Both these levels were significantly reduced in the massage therapy group. However, when the pretest and posttest scores were compared, no significant differences were noted between the massage and control groups.

Sheikhi MA, Ebadi A, Talaeizadeh A, Rahmani H. Alternative Methods to treat nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. Chemother Res Pract. 2015. Epub ahead of print.

Method: Massage therapy and ginger.

Result: Been identified as a therapeutic combination for adults’ chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Dion LJ, Engen DJ, Lemaine V, Lawson Dk, Brock CG, Thomley BS, Cha SS, Sood A, Bauer BA, Wahner-Roedler DL. Massage therapy alone and in combination with meditation for breast cancerpatients undergoing autologous tissue reconstruction: a randomized pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015. Epub ahead of print.

Method: In a study on reconstruction after mastectomy for breast cancer, patients were randomly assigned to either a massage therapy group or a massage plus meditation group.

Result: There were no additive effects of meditation on any of the self-report stress, insomnia, fatigue or pain measures. Although it is generally methodologically appropriate to assess the effects of two therapies combined versus one alone, the addition of meditation may have placed demands on the participants that were new to them, resulting in performance stress. Also, the comparisons can be confounded by the additional time demands on the participants when two therapies are combined.

Lee SH, Kim JY, Yeo S, Kim SH, Lim S. Meta-analysis of massage therapy on cancer pain. Integr Cancer Ther. 2015;14:297-304.

Method: In a meta-analysis on the effects of massage therapy on cancer in general, cancer-associated pain was noted to be one of the most common complaints. Nine high quality studies were included in this meta-analysis.

Result: Massage therapy was noted to significantly reduce cancer pain as compared to no massage control conditions. Massage was effective especially for surgery-related pain, and among the various types of massage, foot reflexology was the most effective. It may have been the most effective as it typically involves the application of moderate pressure and the movement of skin perhaps more so than Swedish massage.

Coronary Bypass and Cardiac Surgery

Boitor M, Martorella G, Arbour C, Michaud C, Gelinas C. Evaluationof the preliminary effectiveness of hand massage therapy on postoperative pain of adults in the intensive care unit after cardiac surgery: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Pain Manag Nurs. 2015;16:354-66.

Method: In a simple post-surgery massage study, the therapy group received 15-minute hand massages and the control group a simple hand-holding for 15 minutes. These were given on 3 occasions within 24 hours after surgery.

Result: Pain intensity and muscle tension were decreased for the hand massage but not the hand-holding control group. The authors concluded that this was a low-cost non-pharmacologic intervention. Although “hands-on” comparison groups may be better control groups, the hand-holding group may not have received the skin-moving, stimulation of pressure receptors that the massage group received. The pressure being applied needs to be measured, as can be done with a sound meter placed near the skin of the person being touched/massaged.

Coronary Care

Hatefi M, Jaafarpour M, Khani A, Khajavikhan J, Kokhazade T. The effect of whole body massage on the process and physiological outcome of trauma ICU patients: a double-blind randomized clinical trial. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9. Epub ahead of print.

Method: In a massage by a family member study, trauma ICU patients received a full body 45 minute massage by a family member and the control group received routine care.

Result: One hour after the intervention significant differences were noted between the two groups, with the massage group having lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respiratory rate and heartrate. Significant group differences were also noted in the arterial blood gas measures including O2 saturation, PH and pO2. The authors recommended massage by a family member as a routine clinical practice.

Adib-Hajbaghery M, Rajabi-Beheshtabad R, Ardjmand A. Comparing the effect of whole body massage by a specialist nurse and patients’ relatives on blood cortisol level in coronary patients. ARYA Atheroscler. 2015;11:126-32.

Method: A direct comparison was made between nurse and family member massage for coronary patients.

Result: Cortisol levels were significantly decreased (by 90 nanomoles) in the massage by a nurse group but not in the other group.


Yuan SL, Matsutani LA, Marques AP. Effectiveness of different styles of massage therapy on fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analyisis. Man Ther. 2015;20:257-64.

Method: [1]. A meta-analysis study on randomized and non-randomized trials.

Result: Shiatsu decreased pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances while Swedish massage did not improve outcomes, though positive effects have been noted for different types of massage therapies.

Full Term Infants

Field T, Gonzalez G, Diego M, Mindell J. Mothers’ massaging their newborns with lotion versus no lotion enhances mothers’ and newborns’ sleep. 2016, in press.

Method: Taught mothers to massage their newborns from the day of birth to the end of the first month on a daily basis and compared a group who were massaged with lotion versus a group who were massaged without lotion versus a non-massage control group.

Result: Both the mothers and the infants in the lotion massage group had better sleep patterns than those of the non-lotion massage and non-massage control groups. This could relate to the massage without lotion being less comfortable.

Dalili H, Sheikhi S, Shariat M, Haghnazarian E. Effects of baby massage on neonatal jaundice in healthy Iranian infants: A pilot study. Infant Behav Dev. 2015;42:22-26.

Method: Four days of twenty minute massages given, twice daily, to full-term healthy newborns.

Result: Bilirubin levels have decreased.

Basiri-Moghadam M, Basiri-Moghadam K, Kianmehr M, Jani S. The effect of massage on neonatal jaundice in stable preterm newborn infants: a randomized controlled trial. J PakMed Assoc.2015;65:602-6.

Method: Four days of massage.

Result: Massage therapy may reduce the need for phototherapy or complement the phototherapy that is typically given to jaundiced newborns. Bilirubin levels were lower.

Growth Measures

Choi H, Kim SJ, Oh J, Lee MN, Kim S, Kang KA. The effects of massage therapy on physical growth and gastrointestinal function in premature infants: A pilot study. J Child Health Care. 2015. Epub ahead of print.

Method: Massage therapy was performed twice daily for two weeks for 15 minutes per session.

Result: In this study, weight gain, height and head circumference were significantly increased. In addition, the frequency of pre-feed gastric residual was decreased and the number of bowel movements was increased in the group who received massage therapy. The authors concluded that NICU nurses needed to be trained in massage therapy techniques so that all preterm infants could receive massage therapy.

Immune Disorders

Perez EM, Carrara H, Bourne L, Berg A, Swanevelder S, Hendricks MK. Massage therapy improves the development of HIV-exposed infants living in a low socio-economic, peri-urban community of South Africa. Infant Behav Dev. 2015;38:135-46.

Method: A study on HIV-exposed infants, the mothers with HIV were taught to massage their infants which they did between 6 weeks when the study started and 9 months when the study ended.

Result: Despite the massage group mothers having higher levels of maternal “mental pain”, their infants scored significantly higher on scales of mental development and hearing and speech at 9 months. Even though the CD4 cell count (the critical index of HIV severity) was measured in the mothers, there was no report on that measure or any measure of the effects of the infant massage on the mothers themselves. This is surprising given that the mothers presumably benefited from massaging their infants.

Infants With Assymetry From Congenital Muscular Torticollis

Lee K, Chung E, Koh S, Lee BH. Outcomes of asymmetry in infants with congenital muscular torticollis. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27:461-4.

Method: Infants with this condition were given massages and passive stretching for 30 minutes three times a week.

Result: At the end of the study the infants showed less asymmetry as measured by the thickness of the two sternocleidomastoid muscles, head tilt and the Torticollis Overall Assessment. Despite these suggestive data from a large sample of infants, methodological problems include the lack of a control group and the potential confound of the infants receiving passive stretching exercises along with their massages.

In Virtro fertilization

Okhowat J, Murtinger M, Schuff M, Wogatzy J, Spitzer D, Vanderzwalmen P, Wirleitner B, Zech NH. Massage therapy improves in vitro fertilization outcome in patients undergoing blastocyst transfer in a cryo-cycle. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21:16-22.

Method: Oscillating vibrations were used prior to the transfer of the embryo.

Result: The positive effects included greater pregnancy rates based on urine assays and ongoing pregnancies measured by fetal heartrate and birth rates as well as miscarriage rates.

Knee Arthritis

Qingguang Z, Min F, Li G, Shuyun J, Wuquan S, Yong L. Gait analysis of patients with knee osteoarthritis before and after Chinese massage treatment. J Tradit Chin Med. 2015;35:411-6.

Method: In another recent knee osteoarthritis study, Chinese massage (moderate pressure massage) was given three times per week for two weeks. Gait was then evaluated using a motion analysis system by infrared cameras.

Result: The patients experienced less pain and stiffness and enhanced function. They also showed increased gait speed and greater step width. However, there was no increase in range of motion.

Field T, Diego M, Gonzalez G, Funk CG. Knee arthritis pain is reduced and range of motion is increased following moderate pressure massage therapy. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015;21: 233-7.

Method: In contrast to other studies that were focused on the quadriceps muscles, the massage protocol of our study on knee osteoarthritis was focused on the hamstrings as well as the quadriceps. We also used moderate pressure massage.

Result: Using moderate pressure and massaging both the hamstrings and the quadriceps may have contributed to unique finding of increased range of motion. Those two aspects may be necessary, i.e. the moderate pressure massage and the focus on both sets of muscles, although, unfortunately, they were confounded in this study, highlighting the need for a replication study.

Massage for NICU Nurses

Nazari F, Mirzamohamadi M, Yousefi H. The effect of massage therapy on occupational stress of intensive care unit nurses. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015;20:508-15.

Method: the nurses were massaged for 20 minutes twice per week for 4 weeks.

Result: Two weeks after the intervention began, their overall job stress scores were significantly decreased as compared to the control group.

Pain in Different Joints

Bervoets DC, Luijsterburg PA, Alessie JJ, Buijs MJ, Verhagen AP. Massage therapy has short-term benefits for people with common musculoskeletal disorders compared to no treatment: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2015;61:106-16.

Method: In a systematic review on pain in different joints, the 26 eligible randomized controlled trials included 2165 participants. However, twenty of the trials were considered to be at high risk for bias.

Result: The results were somewhat mixed in that massage reduced pain in the short-term for shoulder pain and osteoarthritis of the knee but not for neck pain or low back pain. However, function was improved in the long-term for the individuals with shoulder pain and knee arthritis as well as low back pain. Several of the studies that were reviewed showed no greater benefits for massage than there were for joint manipulation or acupuncture. These results are perhaps not surprising in that each of those three treatment modalities involves stimulation of pressure receptors. The authors concluded, nonetheless, that the comparisons between massage and active treatments such as joint manipulation need to be replicated.

Pelvic Pain

Azima S, Bakhshayesh HR, Kaviani M, Abbasnia K, Sayadi M. Comparison of te effect of massage therapy and isometric exercises on primary dysmenorrhea: A randomized controlled clinical trial. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2015;28:486-91.

Method: A treatment comparison was made between massage and isometric exercises.The treatment lasted eight weeks and the two groups were compared to a no-treatment control group.

Result: Pain intensity was significantly reduced in both treatment groups, although the reduction was greater in the massage group.

Potential Underlying Mechanisms

Nelson NL. Massage therapy :understanding the mechanisms of action on blood pressure. A scoping review. J Am Soc Hypertens. 2015;9:785-93.

Method: In a study that examined the underlying mechanisms for the effects of massage, for example, on blood pressure, a thematic analysis was conducted on 27 studies that considered the effects of massage therapy .

Result: The author identified several potential underlying pathways for the relationship between massage therapy and the reduction of blood pressure.

Fazeli MS, Pourrahmat MM, Liu M, Guan L, Collet JP. The effect of head massage on the regulation of the cardiac autonomic nervous system: a pilot randomized crossover trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2016;22:75-80.

Method: Study documented parasympathetic activity following a single short session (10 minutes) of head massage.

Result: Study showed increased parasympathetic activity and the head massage also reduced heartrate.

Vagal Activity and Gastric Motility

Saeadi R, Ghorbani Z, Shapouri Moghaddam A. The effect of massage with medium-chain triglyceride oil on weight gain in premature neonates. Acta Med Iran. 2015;53:134-8.

Method: preterm infants were randomly assigned to 3 different groups including an oil massage group, a non-oil massage group and a control group [5]. Medium-chain triglyceride oil was used for the oil massage group as a nutritional supplement.

Result: The mean weight gain on the seventh day of the study was 105 grams for the oil massage group, 52 grams for the non-oil massage group and 54 grams weight loss for the control group. The greater weight gain by the oil massage group could be related to the oil being absorbed by the skin which could contribute to the weight gain as has been reported in other studies and/or it could be related to increased vagal activity leading to greater gastric motility resulting in more efficient food absorption, as we have shown in an earlier study