Massage significantly reduced the severity of depression in HIV-positive patients, according to new research.

Subjects were randomized non-blinded into one of three parallel groups to receive Swedish massage or to one of two control groups, touch or no intervention for eight weeks.

Approximately 40 percent of the subjects were currently taking antidepressants. All subjects were medically stable.

Swedish massage and touch subjects visited the massage therapist for one hour twice per week. “The touch group had a massage therapist place both hands on the subject with slight pressure, but no massage, in a uniform distribution in the same pattern used for the massage subjects,” according to an abstract published on

For both the ITT and completers analyses, massage significantly reduced depression compared to no intervention and/or touch.

The primary outcome measure was the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression score, with the secondary outcome measure being the Beck Depression Inventory, according to the press release.

“The results indicate that massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression in subjects with HIV disease,” the researchers noted. “The durability of the response, optimal ‘dose’ of massage, and mechanisms by which massage exerts its antidepressant effects remains to be determined.”

The research was conducted by investigators in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tennessee, and was published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

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