Deep-tissue massage was found to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, according to a recent study.

In the study “The Effect of Deep-Tissue Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate,” 263 participants volunteered to receive deep-tissue massage to examine its effect on diastolic, systolic and mean arterial blood pressure and heart rate.

The participants were comprised of 12-percent males and 88-percent females, and their average age was 48. All participants had significant pain prior to the study and experienced moderate or severe overall muscle spasm/strain. Participants who never received massage therapy before the study were excluded.

The massages were performed at a day spa in Lubbock, Texas, between November 2004 and March 2006. The therapist providing the deep-tissue massage had 22 years of experience.

Prior to the massage, baseline diastolic, systolic and mean arterial blood pressure and heart rate were measured via an automatic blood-pressure cuff. The blood-pressure and heart-rate data was stored electronically using a HEM-704C blood-pressure monitor. Each participant then received a deep-tissue massage between 45 and 60 minutes in duration. During the massage sessions, 21 different CDs of soothing music were played at barely audible levels.

Following the massage sessions, blood pressure and heart rate were measured again and compared with the baseline measures. The subsequent data was analyzed using analysis of variance with post-hoc Scheffe’s F-test.

Data collected from the completion of the study showed an average systolic pressure reduction of 10.4 millimeters of mercury, a diastolic pressure reduction of 5.3 millimeters of mercury and a mean arterial pressure reduction of 7.0 millimeters of mercury. Results of the heart-rate data showed an average heart-rate reduction of 10.8 beats per minute.

The authors of the study reported the varied selection of music CDs played in the background was not correlated with the reductions in either blood pressure or heart rate. However, it was noted the music was unlikely to alter hemodynamics, as the music was barely audible in the background.

“The present study demonstrates a high correlation between deep-tissue massage and reduction in blood pressure and heart rate,” the study’s authors said. “These data are encouraging and positive, representing optimism and a hopeful outlook for future research in this area.”
Sources: Health Sciences Center, Louisiana State University, Department of Anesthesiology, New Orleans, Louisiana; and Lindsay’s Day Salon and Day Spa, Lubbock, Texas.

Authors: Alan David Kaye, M.D., Ph.D., D.A.B.P.M.; Aaron J. Kaye, Jan Swinford; Amir Baluch, M.D.; Brad A. Bawcom, B.S.; Thomas J. Lambert, M.D.; and Jason M. Hoover, M.D. Originally published in Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, March 1, 2008, 14(2): 125-128.