Massage Reduces Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Massage improved daily functioning, increased quality of sleep and decreased stress-hormone levels in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study.

“Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms are Reduced by Massage Therapy and Progressive Muscle Exercises,” was conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, along with staff from the university’s neurology department and Duke University’s pharmacology department.

Sixteen adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic disease of the central nervous system characterized by tremor, muscle weakness and rigidity, were randomly assigned to receive either massage therapy or progressive muscle relaxation, for 30 minutes twice a week for five weeks.

The massage consisted of 15 minutes in the prone position, focusing on the back, buttocks, ribs, thighs, calves and feet; and 15 minutes in the supine position, focusing on the thighs, lower legs, feet, hands, forearms, upper arms, neck, face and head.

The progressive muscle relaxation consisted of subjects, guided by a cassette tape, tightening and relaxing their muscles while lying on their back.

On the first and last days of the study, urine samples were collected; participants completed self-reports on daily functioning, sleep and fatigue; and physicians evaluated the participants.

The Activities of Daily Life Scale, which measures the amount of daily activities a person with Parkinson’s disease can perform, was used by both the physicians and the participants to assess daily functioning.

A 15-item sleep scale was used to gauge subjects’ quality of sleep and levels of fatigue, with options ranging from “did not awaken” and “had no trouble sleeping” to “was awake 10 hours” and “had a lot of trouble falling asleep.”
Urine samples were collected to determine participants’ stress-hormone levels.

According to the physicians and the subjects’ self-reports, daily functioning improved for those in the massage-therapy group.

“These data are consistent with previous research showing improvement on activities of daily living following massage therapy, for example, for patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal-cord injuries,” state the study’s authors.

“Together these findings suggest that massage therapy enhances functioning in progressive or degenerative central nervous system disorders or conditions.”

The urine samples revealed a decrease in the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine for the massage-therapy group and an increase in dopamine and epinephrine for the progressive-relaxation group.

“These findings suggest that progressive muscle relaxation exercises may increase dopamine levels, which have been associated with both a progression of the disease and a slowing of the disease,” state the study’s authors.
Both groups reported more effective sleep by the end of the study, but the massage group alone reported less sleep disturbance.

Source: The Touch Research Institute and the department of neurology at the University of Miami School of Medicine; Duke University Department of Pharmacology. Authors: Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D., Tiffany Field, Ph.D., Shay Largie, Christy Cullen, Julia Beutler, Chris Sanders, William Weiner, Dinorah Rodriguez-Bateman, Lisette Zelaya, Saul Schanberg and Cynthia Kuhn. Originally published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, July 2002, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 177-182.