E S E A R C H
Boosts Mood and Benefits Immune Function in Children with Leukemia
Following a month of
daily massage therapy, administered by parents, the white blood
cell and neutrophil counts of children with leukemia increased significantly,
according to a recent study. The research also revealed decreased
anxiety and lower levels of depression in both the children and
"Leukemia immune changes following
massage therapy" was conducted by researchers at the Touch
Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine,
in conjunction with staff at Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital.
It was originally published in October 2001 in the Journal of
Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
Twenty children with acute lymphoblastic
leukemia were randomly assigned to either receive massage therapy
or remain in a standard-treatment control group. Throughout the
one-month study, each child continued to receive standard care for
On the first day of the research, parents
in the massage-therapy group were trained to massage their children
under the guidance of massage therapists. Beginning with the child
in the supine position, parents were instructed to start by stroking
the face, followed by the stomach, legs and arms. With the child
in the prone position, parents were taught to massage the back;
rub and knead the shoulders; and stroke along the back, as well
as from the crown to the feet.
The parents were told to massage their
children at bedtime for 15 minutes every day for one month. They
were also told that the massage was expected to aid in relaxation
and the reduction of anxiety and depression.
Parents in the control group completed
questionnaires on the first and last days of the research, and they
were given the option of learning the massage at the end of the one-month
Pre- and post-session assessments were
made before and after the massage therapy and control sessions on
the first day of research, to evaluate immediate effects. The State/Trait
Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was used to measure the mood of the parents,
who rated items such as "I feel nervous" and "I feel
calm" on a scale that ranged from "not at all" to
"very much so."
The Profile of Mood States (POMS) was
used to evaluate both the parents and children. It consists of 20
adjectives, such as "blue," "sad" and "miserable,"
which are rated on a five-point scale, from "not at all"
to "extremely." The State Anxiety Inventory for Children
was also administered.
Long-term effects were measured on
the first and last days of the study. The Center for Epidemiological
Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), a 20-item scale that rates symptoms
of depression throughout the past week on a four-point scale, from
"rarely or none of the time" to "most or all of the
time," was used to rate the parents' depression.
A complete blood count, which measures
white blood cell and neutrophil counts, along with hemoglobin, was
recorded from each child's medical chart on the first and last days
of the study.
On the first day of the study, following
the massage session, parents in the massage-therapy group had lower
anxiety and depressed mood levels than parents in the control group.
Children in the massage-therapy group had lower anxiety and depression
levels after the first massage, as well.
From the first to the last day of the
study, the depression level of the massage-therapy group parents
decreased, and their children's white blood cell and neutrophil
counts increased significantly.
According to the authors of this study,
"The increased white blood count and neutrophil count following
massage therapy suggests the usefulness of this therapy for maintaining
optimal immune function over the course of cancer treatment."
- Source: The Touch Research
Institute. Authors: Tiffany Field, Christy Cullen, Miguel Diego,
Maria Hernandez-Reif, Phillippa Sprinz, Kristen Beebe, Bonnie Kissell,
Vivian Bango-Sanchez. Originally published in the Journal of Bodywork
and Movement Therapies, 2001, Vol. 5, pp. 271-274.
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