The role of tactile stimulation in healthy infants
A recent study investigated the role of tactile stimulation in physically healthy infants was published in Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology.
Touch establishes powerful physical and emotional connections between infants and their caregivers, and plays an essential role in development. The authors conducted a systematic review to identify published research to ascertain whether tactile stimulation is an effective intervention to support mental and physical health in physically healthy infants.
Twenty-two studies of healthy infants with a median age of six months or less met the review criteria. The limited evidence suggests that infant massage may have beneficial effects on sleeping and crying patterns, infants’ physiological responses to stress (including reductions in serum levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine, and urinary cortisol levels), establishing circadian rhythms. Other effects include an increase in the secretion of melatonin, improving interaction between mother-infant in which the mother is postnatally depressed, and promoting growth and reducing illness for limited populations (i.e. infants in an orphanage where routine tactile stimulation is low).
There is no evidence of a beneficial effect on infant temperament, attachment or cognitive development. There is, therefore, some evidence of benefits on mother-infant interaction, sleeping and crying, and on hormones influencing stress levels. The authors concluded that "In the absence of evidence of harm, these findings support the use of infant massage in the community, particularly in contexts where infant stimulation is poor."
Massage therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms
Massage therapy is widely used by patients with fibromyalgia seeking symptom relief. A review recently published in Rheumatology International Journal reviews available studies with an emphasis on randomized controlled trials to determine whether massage therapy can be a viable treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms.
Extensive narrative review were performed with the key words “massage”, “massotherapy”, “self-massage”, “soft tissue manipulation”, “soft tissue mobilization”, “complementary medicine”, “fibromyalgia” “fibrositis”, and “myofascial pain”. No language restrictions were imposed.
The effects of massage on fibromyalgia symptoms have been examined in two single-arm studies and six randomized controlled trials. All reviewed studies showed short-term benefits of massage, and only one single-arm study demonstrated long-term benefits. However all reviewed studies had methodological problems.
The existing literature provides modest support for use of massage therapy in treating fibromyalgia. The authors suggested additional rigorous research is needed in order to establish massage therapy as a safe and effective intervention for fibromyalgia.
The authors concluded that "In massage therapy of fibromyalgia, we suggest that massage will be painless, its intensity should be increased gradually from session to session, in accordance with patient’s symptoms; and the sessions should be performed at least 1-2 times a week."
Massage therapy for people with HIV/AIDS
People living with HIV/AIDS may experience a lower quality of life due to complications of the disease. Massage therapy may help people by improving their overall health and their ability to deal with stress. A systematic review was published recently in the Cochrane Database Review to examine the safety and effectiveness of massage therapy on quality of life, pain and immune system parameters in people living with HIV/AIDS. The review found four randomised controlled trials that used massage therapy with children, adolescents or adults with HIV or late-stage AIDS.
For quality of life measures, the studies reported that massage therapy in combination with other modalities, such as meditation and stress reduction, are superior to massage therapy alone or to the other modalities alone. The quality of life domains with significant effect sizes included self-reported reduced use of health care resources, improvement in self-perceived spiritual quality of life and improvement in total quality of life scores.
One study also reported positive changes in immune function, in particular CD4+ cell count and natural killer cell counts, due to massage therapy, and one study reported no difference between people given massage therapy and controls in immune parameters. Adverse or harmful effects were not well reported.
The authors concluded that: There is some evidence to support the use of massage therapy to improve quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly in combination with other stress-management modalities, and that massage therapy may have a positive effect on immunological function. The trials are small, however, and at moderate risk of bias. Further studies are needed using larger sample sizes and rigorous design/reporting before massage therapy can be strongly.
An Australian study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal provided a comprehensive analysis of the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by patients in hospitals. The study was conducted with a total of 353 patients in four metropolitan hospitals in Adelaide. Data were collected by means of questionnaires with open- and close-ended questions.
The results showed the prevalence of CAM use among patients was 90%; although a considerable proportion of patients using CAM did not disclose this information to nurses/doctors (40%) and 21% said they would report it as “only when needed/or if asked to”.
A high proportion of patients reported using non-herbal supplements (60%) and massage therapy (45%) while most forms of therapies were mainly used “only when needed”. The CAM domain most frequently used was biologically based therapies (69%).
Patients rated themselves as having “none” (24%) or “very little” (42%) knowledge about most CAM, although nearly half (46%) of them had a positive attitude towards CAM. Use, knowledge, and attitudes towards CAM were also associated with diverse socio-demographic variables.
High heel shoes & Foot Pain
High heel shoes that can give the illusion of giving longer, more slender and more toned legs has kept them popular amongst women. But the aesthetic appeal may come at a price – pain in the heel of the foot and posture problems that may cause problems later in life. That's the conclusion of researchers from the United States who recently completed a study of foot pain among a group of 1900 women and 1500 men.
The team from Boston University School of Public Health found that ill-fitting shoes are the main cause of foot pain – and high heels are the worst offenders. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, learned this after asking the men and women about any foot pain they experienced and correlating it with information about the style of shoes they wore both currently and in the past.
For simplicity, shoe types were divided into three categories:
"good" (these shoes had firm non-flexible soles and good support at the back of the shoe, this included athletic shoes and casual sneakers)
"bad" (these shoes lacked support and structure such as high-heeled shoes, sandals, and slippers) and
"medium" (shoes with an intermediate level of support including hard- or rubber-soled shoes and work boots).
Overall, foot pain is common, they found; it was reported by about three-quarters of subjects at some time. But it was more common among women, and especially among women who wore "bad" shoes. "Good" shoes however were protective, with women who favoured wearing them 67 per cent less likely to report foot pain than those who favoured wearing medium shoes.
The problem with high-heeled shoes is that they place the foot into an unnatural position, affecting both the foot and posture, the researchers say. Not only can prolonged periods of walking in high heels place stress on the back and neck, it can cause permanent postural changes. The high-heeled shoe also places greater pressure on the forefoot, which can cause a build-up of calluses. And if they have pointed toes, these can cause deformities including bunions, claw toes, corns and thickening of the nails.
When you wear high heels, your centre of gravity is moved forward about 10 centimetres. Postural muscles in the back became overused and this can cause lower back and sometimes neck pain, says Brendon Brown, president of the Australian Podiatry Association. The best shoes are well-fitted, have a firm sole, are well-cushioned with a stiff heel counter that is strong and supportive (but not too stiff). The front of the shoe should be flexible, he says.