A massage therapy technique popular in Japan has been shown to reduce muscle stiffness as well as anxiety levels.

Anma massage was brought from China in the 6th century and, while based on the theory of Chinese medicine, it developed in Japan according to Japanese preference and has recently come to include theories of Western medicine.

Researchers from the department of health at Tsukuba University of Technology, in Kasuga, Ibaraki, Japan, set out to clarify the physical and psychological effects of Anma therapy.

Fifteen healthy female volunteers in their 50s, with chronic muscle stiffness in the neck and shoulder, received two interventions: 40-minute Anma therapy and 40-minute rest intervention. Participants were randomly divided into two groups. Group A was started on Anma therapy from the first day followed by the rest intervention after a 3-day interval. The order of the Anma therapy and the rest intervention reversed for Group B.

Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) score for muscle stiffness in the neck and shoulder, state anxiety score, and salivary cortisol concentration levels and secretory immunoglobulin A (s-IgA) were measured pre- and post-interventions.

The results show Anma therapy reduced muscle stiffness in the neck and shoulder and anxiety levels in this pilot study of 50-year-old females.

The research is published in the Jan. 2010 issue the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.