Massage Therapy and Immune Function

Much research has been conducted into the relationship between massage therapy and improved immune function.  While massage therapists have long claimed that the application of touch therapy techniques can boost the immune system function, few comprehensive studies featuring definitive results have been produced. Recently, there has been a trend towards laying the foundations for more comprehensive studies.

The most in-depth study into the connection between massage therapy and improved immune response was was undertaken in 2010 by Cedar-Sinai's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences. The trial found that even a single session of Swedish Massage Therapy spanning a mere 45 minutes elicited a measurable immune response: respondents experienced a large decrease in the hormone argnine vasopressin, which is involved in feelings of aggression and the production of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition,  white blood cells involved with healthy immune function were found to be stimulated to action after massage.

Studies have also been performed on patients whose immune system has been compromised, such as in the case of cancer and HIV/Aids. Results are promising: certain kinds of massage are popular amongst patients, despite past assumptions the treatment would be contra-indicated. On the contrary, studies have shown that cancer patients can benefit both mentally and physically from receiving treatment. A study performed on victims of breast cancer found the subjects had improved immune and neuroendocrine (brain hormone) functions following remedial massage treatment. The study notes that 'Women with breast cancer are at risk for elevated depression, anxiety, and decreased natural killer (NK) cell number.' Massage was shown to help alleviate these negative symptoms, bringing a more relaxed, balanced mindset to the patient, as well as improved immune function.

A study performed by researchers at Temple University focused on the effectiveness of regular massage therapy on inner-city residents living with HIV/Aids produced similar results. The conclusion was that even one massage treatment had a discernible effect upon the depleted immune systems of the subjects. No doubt further research is planned that will build upon the results of these encouraging results, improving the status of massage therapy as a valuable remedial treatment.