Massage Therapy as Complementary Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

    Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects approximately 1 million Americans, with nearly 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Worldwide, about 10 million people have been diagnosed with this disease. PD occurs when the brain begins to slowly stop the production of dopamine. This will affect a person’s ability to control his or her body and its movements, as well as emotions. The chances of developing PD increases with age and symptoms may not be too apparent at first, as this disease progresses slowly. PD’s physical symptoms can have a strong effect on a person’s quality of life, and may affect family members as well.
    Complementary medicine is often used in the treatment of PD, with massage therapy being one of the most popular. 54% of PD patients in the United States reported using complementary medicine, and cited massage therapy and aromatherapy as the most commonly used (Ferry, Johnson, & Wallis, 2002). A study by Japanese researchers Donoyama and Ohkoshi (2012) may provide positive insights for those affected by PD and considering complementary therapy.
    The researchers gathered 10 adults who had been diagnosed with PD. These participants had expressed interest in pursuing massage therapy in conjunction with their standard treatment. The researchers wanted to measure the participants’ walking disturbance and speed, range of motion for those suffering from frozen shoulder (pain and restriction of movement in the shoulder), hypophonia (difficulty speaking loudly or clearly), as well as other physical symptoms such as muscle pain and fatigue.
    The 10 participants received a single intervention consisting of a 30-minute full body massage. The massage consisted of traditional Japanese techniques by mainly using kneading (less stroking/pressing) with moderate-pressure while the participants were clothed. For participants suffering from frozen shoulder, a shoulder joint massage was incorporated. Attention was paid to both the more severe and less severe sides of the body.
    Results showed significant improvements for all measurements. Walking speed and ability both increased. The researchers noted that one of the participants took 95 seconds to walk 10 meters pre-test, but post-massage was able to walk the same distance in 21.5 seconds. All of the participants suffering from frozen shoulder had an almost full range of motion restored immediately following the massage. Hypophonia was also decreased in participants, with a difference of 18.8 points pre- and post-massage. Additional physical symptoms such as muscle pain and fatigue decreased as well.
    While the results provide significant improvements for the participants, it is important to note that the sample size for the study was very small. A larger sample size is needed to support the findings of the study. In addition to a larger sample size, a longitudinal study, or increasing the time of the study and amount of interventions, may shed light on the long-term effects of massage for those with living with PD. Lastly, a quality of life measurement should be incorporated so as to measure any emotional benefits PD patients may achieve.
    Nonetheless, this study has found that massage therapy does provide immediate physical benefits for those diagnosed with PD, and that massage therapy combined with standard treatment may provide significant alleviation of symptoms.
Donoyama, N., & Ohkoshi, N. (2012). Effects of Traditional Japanese Massage Therapy on Various Symptoms in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease: A Case-Series Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(3), 294-299. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0148
Ferry, P., Johnson, M., & Wallis, P. (2002). Use of complementary therapies and non-prescribed medication in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 78(924), 612-614. doi:10.1136/pmj.78.924.612

Lower Back Pain Treatment Through Ayurvedic Massage

    Lower back pain may be a familiar discomfort for you. It is one of the most common conditions in the Western world. Martin et al. (2008) explained that over 300 billion dollars are spent annually in the United States for the treatment of lower back pain. Chronic sufferers may not only experience debilitating pain, but additional symptoms such as headaches and depression. Kumar et al. (2016) wanted to research the effects of Ayurvedic massage on chronic lower back pain.

    Ayurveda is a traditional, holistic Indian medicine. It includes treatments such as nutritional guidance, thermotherapy, herbal medicine, and much more. It is not uncommon to find doctors in Southern Asia regularly using this medicine, especially for the treatment of chronic pain. Ayurvedic medicine has seen an increase in popularity across Western countries, specifically external treatments such as massage. This is the reason why the researchers decided to test Ayurvedic massage on patients with chronic lower back pain.

    For the controlled clinical trial, a sample of 64 adults was used. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: an Ayurvedic massage therapy group or a standard physical therapy group. However, over the course of the study, some participants dropped out. The most common reason was inability to return to the research center, or a perceived lack of benefit from the study. 3% of the Ayurvedic group dropped out, while 22% of the physical therapy group was lost.

    The intervention lasted for a total of four weeks, where the first two weeks were spent undergoing therapy and the next two used for rest and observation. During the first two weeks, participants received six sessions of therapy. Six sessions were used as this is the average prescription within the German healthcare system, where the study took place. Researchers primarily measured for pain intensity, although they also measured quality of life, level of physical functions (or level of disability stemming from back pain), and psychological effects such as depression, anger, and fatigue. Measurements were taken before the intervention and during weeks 2 and 4 of the intervention.

    The Ayurvedic massage sessions lasted for a total of 65 minutes. The massage therapist first applied a warm, medicated oil (Sahacharadi Taila) while using light manual pressure. Next, stuffed cotton bags (Kizhi) were applied with rhythmic movements across the lower back and gluteal region. Lastly, a gentle massage was provided on the lower back, gluteal region, and any specific pain areas. Patients then took a warm shower and relaxed for 30 minutes. For the physical therapy group, participants were given heated packs to apply to the lower back for 20 minutes. Afterwards, they received a light massage. Participants in this group then also relaxed for 30 minutes.

Kizhi Treatment. Photo by

Kizhi Treatment.
Photo by

    After the 4 weeks of intervention, the Ayurvedic massage group reported a higher decrease in lower back pain at both weeks 2 and 4. The Ayurvedic group’s decrease in pain was 18.7 points better than that of the physical therapy group. For psychological effects, the Ayurvedic group also reported less fatigue and anger. For other effects and quality of life, no significant changes were found. The Ayurvedic group also reported an increase in physical functions, but these results were not found to be significant.

    Future research is suggested to confirm the findings of the study, especially for longer periods of intervention. In addition, the researchers note that massage is only one part of Ayurvedic medicine, and that applying additional aspects of Ayurveda may shed more light on the traditional medicine’s effectiveness. Overall, though, it appears that Ayurvedic massage may provide some much-needed relief for patients of chronic lower back pain.

Kumar, S., Rampp, T., Kessler, C., Jeitler, M., Dobos, G. J., Lüdtke, R., Meier, L., & Michalsen, A. (2016). Effectiveness of Ayurvedic Massage (Sahacharadi Taila) in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. doi:10.1089/acm.2015.0272

Martin, B. I., Deyo, R. A., Mirza, S. K., Turner, J. A., Comstock, B. A., Hollingworth, W., & Sullivan, S. D. (2008, June). Expenditures and Health Status Among Adults With Back and Neck Problems. JAMA, 299(6). doi:10.1097/01.brs.0000320200.72604.9f

lavender massage cream, massage cream, massage oil, massage, lavender massage oil

Aromatherapy Massage and Inhalation on Pain and Anxiety in Burn Patients

    Burn patients make up 5% of hospital intakes, with over one million burn patients in the U.S. alone. In many developing countries, burn injuries are an increasing risk. Treatment for burns can be very painful, such as dressing and re-dressing wounds. In addition, scars left after treatment can affect the patient’s physical, social, and emotional health. Researchers Seyyed-Rasooli et al. (2016) wanted to investigate alternative therapy for burn patients in Iran, specifically through the use of aromatherapy. The researchers explain that many burn patients are treated with tranquilizers, which reduce pain and anxiety, but are expensive, slow, and addictive. Instead, the researchers set after relieving pain and anxiety through aromatherapy, with lavender and rose essential oils.

    The researchers describe lavender as both calming and antiseptic, an aroma that is widely known and used. While lavender has many benefits, it is not best for everyone. Women who are pregnant or anyone suffering from certain allergies should avoid lavender. The researchers also chose rose because it has chemicals that can alleviate anxiety, depression, tension, and headaches.

    Seyyed-Rasooli et al. conducted a single-blind clinical trial with a randomized sample. The sample consisted of 90 women who had burns covering less than 20% of their bodies. From these 90 women, 3 groups were established: a control group who received standard treatment in the hospital, an inhalation aromatherapy group who inhaled essential oils, and an aromatherapy massage group. The 90 women were randomly assigned to a group with each group consisting of 30 women.

    The intervention occurred only once for a 30-minute duration. Women in the massage group were brought to an isolated room, away from any noise and interruptions. The massage group received treatment with a blend of lavender and almond oil. Researchers massaged the women’s backs, which included: back surface stroking, back deep stroking, effleurage, re-effleurage, back deep stroking, then back surface stroking. Each segment lasted for five minutes.

    Women in the inhalation group were also brought to an isolated room. The researchers applied lavender and rose oils to cotton, which was placed near the patient’s nose for a total of 30 minutes. For both massage and inhalation group, scores for pain and anxiety were re-tested 10 minutes after the intervention.

    Women in the inhalation group had the largest decrease in anxiety, although the massage group was only shortly behind. For pain, the massage group reported the highest decrease, nearly double the decrease of the inhalation group. Nevertheless, both aromatherapy massage and inhalation had positive effects on pain and anxiety for the burn patients.

    With these results, the researchers argue that aromatherapy inhalation is best for the treatment of anxiety, especially because the patient can perform the treatment alone. The researchers continue to explain that aromatherapy massage would be best in the treatment of pain, as the treatment can reduce pain signals from sensory nerves and increase the release of endorphins.

    The researchers do acknowledge that the study was only conducted on female patients, and that further research should include men. However, it is important to note that the study is not without flaws. Perhaps most glaring of them all is that the researchers used a different blend of essential oils when treating the two different groups, which may have had an effect on the outcome of the results. That is, the essential oils used may have had more of a significant effect on pain and anxiety than the researchers anticipated. Considering the researchers did not investigate the effects of almond oil, it seems strange that this was substituted for the rose oil in the massage group.

    Regardless of this inconsistency, this study provides light on the impact that alternative therapies can provide patients. While standard care certainly does aid patients in many different areas of medical treatment, alternative therapies such as massage and essential oil inhalation can surely assist such treatments further.

Seyyed-Rasooli, A., Salehi, F., Mohammadpoorasl, A., Goljaryan, S., Seyyedi, Z., & Thomson, B. (2016, June). Comparing the effects of aromatherapy massage and inhalation aromatherapy on anxiety and pain in burn patients: A single-blind randomized clinical trial. Burns. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2016.06.014

foot massage, feet massage. massage, labor massage, reflexology

What Foot Reflexology Can Do For Pregnancy Labor

     Researchers Hanjani, Tourzani, and Shoghi (2015) wanted to investigate the effects of foot reflexology in primigravida (first pregnancy) women during labor. The researchers had studied previous research which found that massage during labor can reduce labor pain, as well as anxiety (McNeill, Alderdice, & McMurray, 2006). Active management during labor was also found to minimize labor duration and pain as well as C-sections (Sadler, Davison, & McCowan, 2000). The researchers note that anxiety during labor can have ill effects on both mother and child, such as psychological disturbances or difficulties with delivery.
     The researchers also mentioned that massage during pregnancy can have many positive effects for the mother, such as reduction of nausea, fatigue, and constipation (Mollart, 2003).
     For their study, the researchers randomly tested 80 primigravida women who were in active labor. These women must not have received any pain medication or labor inducers. In addition, these women were tested to ensure they had no anxiety or psychological diseases. The women were then randomly assigned to two groups, reflexology or control.
     The reflexology group received a foot massage, with fixed or rotating pressure on the pituitary gland, Solar plexus, and uterine. The control group also received a foot massage, but in other areas. The researchers took measurements of pain and anxiety before intervention, 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours after beginning intervention, and at the end of intervention. The researchers also recorded the type and length of labor as well as the baby’s Apgar score at 1-minute and 5-minutes (The Apgar score is a test to check the baby’s health immediately after birth, so that medical attention may be provided if necessary. The higher the score, the better the health).
     The researchers found that anxiety was significantly reduced for mothers in the reflexology group. The control group had the opposite effect, as anxiety increased during labor. Both groups, however, had substantial reductions in pain intensity throughout labor. 92.5% of mothers in the reflexology group had natural vaginal deliveries, whereas 80% of mothers in the control group delivered vaginally. Mothers in the reflexology group had pointedly shorter labor durations than the control group mothers. Lastly, babies from the reflexology group had significantly higher scores than did those of the control group.
     The researchers concluded that reflexology massage during labor reduces pain intensity, anxiety, and duration of labor. It is also increases the occurrence of a natural vaginal delivery and a higher Apgar score for the child. While more research is needed, it is important to note that the effects of massage therapy has important potential for mothers in labor.

Mcneill, J. A., Alderdice, F. A., & Mcmurray, F. (2006). A retrospective cohort study exploring the relationship between antenatal reflexology and intranatal outcomes. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 12(2), 119-125. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2005.11.004

Moghimi-Hanjani, S., Mehdizadeh-Tourzani, Z., & Shoghi, M. (2015). The Effect of Foot Reflexology on Anxiety, Pain, and Outcomes of the Labor in Primigravida Women. Acta Medica Iranica, 53(8), 507-511.

Mollart, L. (2003). Single-blind trial addressing the differential effects of two reflexology techniques versus rest, on ankle and foot oedema in late pregnancy. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, 9(4), 203-208. doi:10.1016/s1353-6117(03)00054-4

Sadler, L. C., Davison, T., & Mccowan, L. M. (2000). A randomised controlled trial and meta-analysis of active management of labour. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 107(7), 909-915. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2000.tb11091.x

osteoarthritis, massage therapy, oa, knee oa, massage

Osteoarthritis and Massage Therapy

Researchers published results of their study (Ali, Rosenberger, Weiss, Milak, & Perlman, 2016), investigating the effects of Swedish massage techniques on patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The study’s aim was to investigate how massage therapy could help patients’ quality of life while living with OA.


Murphy & Helmick (2012) wrote that 10% of Americans suffer from OA. OA can cause severe pain, and may limit the physical abilities of the affected person. This can have an effect on the person’s daily life, as daily activities may become more challenging and/or painful. Other researchers (Perlman, Sabina, Williams, Njike, & Katz, 2006) previously held a study in which they tested whether massage therapy for OA of the knee was feasible, safe, and effective, and found that it was successful, including increasing functionality and decreasing pain.


For this new study, the researchers instead wanted to see how massage affected the emotional aspects of OA. A previous study by Hsu, Bluespruce, Sherman, & Cherkin (2010) investigated complementary and alternative treatments for people suffering from chronic back pain. The study found that these treatments increased positive emotional states for patients, as well as feelings of hope, improved their ability to relax, and also improved their ability to cope with the back pain.


For this study, the researchers used purposive sampling to find 18 adults as research participants. The qualitative study measured results through in-person and telephone interviews, both before and after treatment. Questions from these interviews asked about attitudes towards massage therapy and OA, as well as changes in these attitudes or lifestyle post-treatment. Participants were randomly assigned to receive 8 weeks of Swedish massage weekly or biweekly, for a session of 30 or 60 minutes. Researchers noted that this massage style was used due to its popularity in the United States, as it includes effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, vibration, friction, and skin rolling.


After 8 weeks, the participants discussed feelings of greater relaxation and a better quality of life. 44% of participants said the massages made it easier for them to relax, and half of said that the massage affected their “thoughts, feelings, reactions, and activities” (p. 5). However, some patients said the 30 minute sessions were too short, as it would end just as they were beginning to relax.


44% of participants also told researchers that the massage therapy improved their quality of life. These include functional abilities, emotional moods, mental state (including outlook on life), and overall well-being. Some participants explained that the massage had improved their physical abilities, so that they were able to carry out daily activities that OA had prevented before. One participant even told researchers that she needed her anti-inflammatory medication less, as the massage provided pain relief from her OA.


Almost a quarter of the participants reported short-term pain relief from massage therapy. In addition, 13 participants informed researchers that they believed massage therapy was an effective treatment for OA. Many of the participants explained their satisfaction with massage therapy, but were unhappy that massage therapy was not more available as a method of medical treatment.


These participants explained their unhappiness that insurance would not cover massage therapy as a method of treatment for their OA. Many believed its effectiveness warranted coverage through insurance. Researchers asked 10 participants if they would pursue massage therapy as treatment for their OA, if covered by insurance, and all 10 participants answered that they would.


This new research shows how massage therapy does more beyond physical healing and comfort, but stretches into improving the emotional aspects of chronic pain. Massage therapy continues to provide vast benefits to recipients, both physical and emotional.




Ali, A., Rosenberger, L., Weiss, T. R., Milak, C., & Perlman, A. I. (2016). Massage Therapy and Quality of Life in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Qualitative Study. Pain Med Pain Medicine. doi:10.1093/pm/pnw217

Hsu, C., Bluespruce, J., Sherman, K., & Cherkin, D. (2010). Unanticipated Benefits of CAM Therapies for Back Pain: An Exploration of Patient Experiences. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(2), 157-163. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0188

Murphy, L., & Helmick, C. G. (2012). The Impact of Osteoarthritis in the United States. Orthopaedic Nursing, 31(2), 85-91. doi:10.1097/nor.0b013e31824fcd42

Perlman AI, Sabina A, Williams A, Njike VY, Katz DL. (2006). Massage Therapy for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med. 166(22), 2533-2538. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.22.2533

Newborn massage, infant massage, massage therapy, baby massage, real bodywork

Massaging a newborn can lead to a better night’s sleep for child and mother

Previous studies have shown that both parents and infants benefit from massage therapy with oil, especially concerning night-time sleep interruptions. A recent study (Field, Gonzalez, Diego, & Mindell, 2016) noticed that almost all of these studies focused on older infants rather than newborn infants. These researchers wanted to not only study newborn children, but their mothers as well.

The study included 59 mothers and their newborns, who were gathered for the study within 24 hours after giving birth. The participants were then assigned to one of three groups: lotion massage, no lotion massage, or no massage. The mothers in the massage groups were trained to give their infants a 15-minute massage, 15 minutes before bedtime, consisting of: five minutes of moderate-pressure stroking of the infant in a prone position, five minutes of moderate-pressure extensions/flexions of the arms and legs while in a supine position, and a repeat of the five-minute stroking. The massage was done slowly and rhythmically, and the lotion group used a lavender scented massage lotion on the infants.

After one month, the study found that mothers who gave massage with lotion spent the most time sleeping and the highest decrease in problems sleeping. In addition, the mothers had less difficulty falling asleep. Infants from the lotion group got the most sleep out of all three groups, had les difficulty falling asleep, and had decreased night wakings. Interestingly, the no lotion group infants had more frequent night wakings and more difficulty falling asleep than the other two groups.

Parenthood is never an easy task, but it appears that massaging a baby with massage oil/lotion close to bed time has significant effects for both mother and child.



Field, T., Gonzalez, G., Diego, M., & Mindell, J. (2016). Mothers massaging their newborns with lotion versus no lotion enhances mothers’ and newborns’ sleep. Infant Behavior and Development, 45, 31-37. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2016.08.004