E S E A R C H
Nervosa Symptoms Reduced by Massage
Massage alleviates anxiety,
depression, eating disorder symptoms, poor body image and biochemical
abnormalities for women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, according
to a recent research study.
"Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms are Reduced
by Massage Therapy" was conducted by researchers at the Touch
Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
It was originally published in Eating Disorders: The Journal
of Treatment and Prevention.
Nineteen women undergoing inpatient or
outpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa were randomly assigned
by researchers to either a massage-therapy group or a standard-treatment
In addition to receiving standard care,
the women in the massage-therapy group received a 30-minute Swedish
massage twice a week for five weeks. Beginning in the supine position,
the head and neck were massaged, followed by the arms, torso, legs
and feet. In the prone position, the legs and back were massaged.
Inpatients in the standard-treatment
only group participated in daily individual- and group-therapy sessions,
worked with a dietician and engaged in movement therapy. The women
in the outpatient program were under the care of a psychiatrist
and attended group therapy.
On the first and last days of the study,
researchers used the State Anxiety Inventory to evaluate the womens'
anxiety levels; the Profile of Mood States to measure their moods;
saliva cortisol tests to measure stress-hormone levels; the Center
for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale to determine depression
levels; and urine samples to measure dopamine values. The Eating Disorder
Inventory was used to measure psychological and behavioral traits
associated with anorexia nervosa, such as perfectionism, drive for
thinness, interpersonal distrust and body dissatisfaction.
After the five-week treatment period,
the massage-therapy group had lower scores on the Eating Disorder
Inventory, compared to the standard-treatment group. (Higher scores
suggest more symptoms associated with anorexia nervosa.)
Although improved mood was reported by
women in the massage-therapy group, no changes were found in depression
scores for either the massage-therapy or standard-treatment only
group. The study suggests that a longer massage treatment period
may be necessary to reduce depression for women with anorexia nervosa.
"That the Eating Disorder Inventory
(EDI) scores were unchanged for the participants in the control
group despite receiving standard treatment
of the difficulty of treating eating disorders with only traditional
therapies," state the study's authors.
Urine samples taken on the first and
last days of the study revealed an increase in dopamine values for
the women who received massage therapy in addition to standard care.
"Dopamine depletion has been associated with a decrease in
food intake and has been implicated in anorexia nervosa and feeding
behaviors," state the authors.
The results of this study, according
to its authors, "suggest that massage therapy added to standard
care may be effective for healing mind and body issues for individuals
with eating disorders."
The Touch Research
Institute. Authors: Sybil Hart, Ph.D.; Tiffany Field, Ph.D.; Maria
Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D.; Graciela Nearing, Psy.D.; Seana Shaw, M.D.;
Saul Schanberg, M.D., Ph.D.; Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D. Originally published
in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 2001,
Vol. 9, pp. 217-228.
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