Real Bodywork Massage Blog

Two hands applying massage to the back.

Massage found to improve post-stress immune response.

A recent study found that a patient’s stress response can affect his or her response to massage therapy. The stress response is a patient’s cardiovascular response to psychological stress. When this response is strong in a patient, it may lead to more serious conditions, such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease. The study investigated how massage affected a patient’s heart-rate variability (HRV), blood pressure, and salivary markers, depending on their stress response (responder vs. nonresponder).

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The experiment was comprised of 30 college students who were split into two groups, the responders and the nonresponders. Each participant received 21 minutes of massage, consisting of three techniques: local pressure temporalis technique, sustained pressure thoracic technique, and sustained pressure sacrum occipitalis technique. Short-term HRV, blood pressure and heart rates, and saliva flow rates were measured both before and after the participant received the massage therapy.

Responders’ Heart rate variability and salivary flow rates improved following the massage therapy, whereas blood pressure and heart rate did not change significantly for either group. The researchers write, “Our results in the present study support the use of massage as a potential preventive strategy to improve the post-stress immune response in susceptible populations.”


Diaz-Rodriguez, L., Fernandez-Perez, A. M., Galiano-Castillo, N., Cantarero-Villanueva, I., Fernandez-Lao, C., Martin-Martin, L. M., & Arroyo-Morales, M. (2016, September). Do Patient Profiles Influence the Effects of Massage? A Controlled Clinical Trial. Biological Research For Nursing. doi:10.1177/1099800416643182