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Massage Relieves Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome
Women suffering from symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as irritability, headaches, anxiety and weight gain, felt relief from regular massage sessions, according to results from a recent research study.

The study, "Premenstrual symptoms are relieved by massage therapy," was conducted by the Touch Research Institute in conjunction with the University of Miami Medical School.

Twenty-four women, aged 19 to 45, with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of PMS) were selected from gynecological practices. The women were randomly assigned to a massage therapy group or a relaxation group. Those in the massage therapy group received twice-weekly, 30-minute massage sessions for five weeks. The sessions started during a premenstrual week to establish a baseline measure.

Sessions began with the woman supine, and included 15 minutes of: kneading the neck; stroking the forehead; pressing down on the tops of the shoulders; stroking on the hands, arms and shoulders; circular stroking on the stomach; stroking of the feet and legs; and kneading of the thighs. The remaining 15 minutes of the session, the woman was prone while the therapist stretched her ankles; compressed her calf muscles; kneaded her thigh muscles; gave gliding strokes to her legs; and massaged her low back, shoulders and neck.

The relaxation group was given progressive muscle relaxation therapy. For 30 minutes twice a week, participants were instructed to tense and relax major muscle groups, starting with the feet and moving up.

Treatment assessments included the following self-rating scales: the Center for Epidemiological Depression Scale (CES-D) to rate depressive symptoms; the Menstrual Distress Questionnaire (MDQ) to rank premenstrual symptoms; the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to measure anxiety; the Profile of Mood States (POMS) to rate the level of depression; and a visual analog scale (VAS) to rate perceived pain.

At the end of the study, results indicated that the massage therapy group experienced a decrease in anxiety (STAI), a decrease in depression (POMS), a reduction in perceived pain (VAS), and an overall reduction in PMS symptoms including pain and water retention (MDQ).

Researchers wrote that future studies might focus on the effects of a longer-term massage therapy program.

"Overall, the present findings suggest that massage therapy may be an effective long-term aid for pain reduction and water retention, and short-term for decreasing anxiety and improving mood for women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Based on these findings, massage therapy benefits would be expected to generalize to the milder PMS."

– Source: Touch Research Institute. Originally reported in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, March 2000, Vol. 21, pp. 9-15. 

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