From the MASSAGE Magazine department, Research Reports, in the December 2008 issue. Article summary: Massage on healthy adults provided significant improvements in mood, immune function and serum cholesterol levels, according to recent research.

Massage on healthy adults provided significant improvements in mood, immune function and serum cholesterol levels, according to recent research.

“The Effects of Massage Therapy on Immune, Hematological and Psychological State of Adult Subjects” involved 32 subjects, ranging in age from 18 to 62. Participants each received one 25-minute, full-body massage from a skilled massage therapist. Several participants were excluded due to their use of prescription medications for hypertension and cholesterol, which may have affected the outcome of the study. Subjects who smoked were also excluded for similar reasons.

The massage provided was based on Amma, a Chinese massage technique combining pressure, friction and touch with deep-tissue bodywork. Each massage focused on the whole body and was given while subjects were fully clothed. The bodywork occurred in a specific order, starting with head and neck, then moving to the shoulders, back and hips, upper limbs and lower limbs. Techniques included effleurage, kneading with whole hands and kneading with thumbs along muscle. Subjects were asked to let the massage therapist know the most comfortable level of pressure.

Measurements were taken before and after each massage session. Measures included the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), which measured a subject’s current (state) and long-standing (trait) levels of anxiety. Blood and saliva samples were also taken in order to analyze cell levels associated with stress and immune function, as well as serum cholesterol.

Results of the study compared baseline measures to post-massage measures, and there were significant improvement in all factors. Following the massage session, both state and trait anxiety levels decreased significantly; serum cholesterol levels were lowered; and the levels of cells indicating stress decreased. Blood tests showed significantly improved immune function as well.

“It was found in the present study that a 25-minute massage is capable of inducing psychological relaxation, in terms of reducing anxiety,” said the study’s authors. “Massage therapy also modulates immune function, induces hemodilution and decreases serum cholesterol. These findings suggest the possible usefulness of massage therapy as a stress management technique and for health promotion in modern society.”

Authors: Hiroko Kuriyama, Satoko Watanabe, Toshiaki Tadai, Kenji Fukui, Isao Shirahata and Jiro Imanishi.

Source: Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Department of Psychiatry, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine; Graduate School of Science for Human Services, Ritsumeikan University; Kenkokan Massage and Acupuncture Clinic. Originally published in the Japanese Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2008) 2(1): 59-65.