Effect of massage therapy on stress levels and quality of life in brain tumor patients
Patients with brain tumors report experiencing elevated levels of stress across the disease continuum. Massage therapy is a commonly used complementary therapy and is employed in cancer care to reduce psychological stress and to improve quality of life (QoL). A pilot study was carried out by Scientists at Duke University Medical Center to obtain a preliminary assessment of the efficacy of massage therapy on patient reported psychological outcomes and QoL. The study was reported in Support Care Cancer Journal November 2010.
The design of the study was a prospective, single-arm intervention. Participants were newly diagnosed primary brain tumor patients who reported experiencing stress and who received a total of eight massages over a period of 4 weeks. Participants completed the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) and the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Brain to assess their stress level and QoL.
As a group, levels of stress dropped significantly between weeks 2 and 3. A trend for the reduction in stress continued through week 4. At the end of week 4, PSS-10 scores of all participants were below the threshold for being considered stressed. By the end of the intervention, participants reported significant improvements in three test domains, emotional well-being, additional brain tumor concerns, and social/family well-being.
This study indicates that participation in a massage therapy program is both feasible and acceptable to newly diagnosed brain tumor patients experiencing stress. Furthermore, participants in this study reported improvements in stress and their QoL while receiving massage therapy.
Physical and psychological effects of massage on patients with dementia
A study conducted by scientists from Hamamatsu University, Shizuoka, Japan evaluated the physical and psychological effects of a gentle type of massage called tactile massage on elderly patients with severe dementia. The study investigated the effects of a 6-week tactile massage on changes in physical and mental function, symptoms of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) among elderly patients with dementia.
In addition, chromogranin A (CgA) levels as an index of stress examined the effects of tactile massage intervention. A tactile massage group consisting of elderly patients with dementia received tactile massage therapy a total of 30 times each for about 20 minutes between 16:00 and 17:00 hours.
In the control group, the mean scores for ”intellectual” and ”emotional function” score decreased significantly after 6 weeks; however, no change was observed in the tactile massage group. Both the ”aggressiveness” score and CgA levels decreased significantly after 6 weeks in the tactile massage group. These results suggest that tactile massage reduces aggressiveness and stress level in patients with dementia. The study was reported in theDecember 2010 issue of American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias.
Massage for Autism?
Massage has become a fairly popular alternative therapy for autism, but there is only limited evidence suggesting it is helpful, a review published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry shows.
Researchers say some studies did find benefits — for instance in language and social skills — but small patient samples and other problems make the results unreliable.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disorders that, to varying degrees, hinder a person’s ability to communicate, socialize and build relationships. There is no cure, but special education programs and behavioral and language therapies are standard. Often, parents also turn to alternative approaches for additional help, including special diets or art and music therapy.
In general, massage or “touch” therapy is thought to have both physical and emotional benefits. For children with autism, it could have effects on the nervous and hormonal systems that may help ease some of their difficulties, explained Dr. Myeong Soo Lee of the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in Daejeon, the lead researcher on the new study. And parents seem to be putting some hope into that idea: Two recent U.S. studies of children with ASDs found that 11 percent to 16 percent had undergone massage therapy. But whether it actually works is unclear.
In their search of the medical literature, Lee and his colleagues found only six clinical trials that tested massage therapy against standard therapies for children with autism. There were some promising findings, Lee said. Children who received massage plus special education, for instance, improved their social abilities and “daily living” skills, like dressing and feeding themselves. And those who had massage added to language therapy made bigger strides in communicating than those who had language therapy alone.
However, all of the studies had fundamental shortcomings, according to the researchers: None included more than 50 children and they lasted only between one and five months. There were also problems in the studies’ methods that put them at a high risk of bias. In some cases, for example, the researchers assessing the children knew which ones had gotten massage therapy and which ones had not, so they might be more inclined to see progress in the former.
The bottom line, the researchers write, is that “firm conclusions cannot be drawn” as to whether massage therapy aids children with autism. On the other hand, the researchers are not advising parents against finding a massage therapist with experience in working with children with autism.
If parents are interested in the therapy, Lee said, he knows of no serious potential risks of massage for children with autism. But as far as effectiveness, more rigorous studies are warranted, he and his colleagues write.
Massage Therapy for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review
J Clin Psychiatry
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