Research shows potential of massage therapy to treat anxiety symptoms


New research indicates that Swedish massage therapy (SMT) might be useful in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for the anxiety. Conducted by researchers at the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at Emory University in Atlanta, the research is the first monotherapy GAD study. There have only been studies on the use of massage to decrease anxiety that is a secondary outcome of a range of medical problems.  

The clinical trial involved 47 individuals determined to have GAD using established ratings to measure anxiety. None of the participants had prior GAD treatment.  Researchers assigned 23 of the participants to an experimental group to receive twice-weekly SMT; another 24 assigned to a control group received a light touch therapy.

The research included bi-weekly treatments for 6 weeks. Each session lasted 45 minutes under the same room conditions, according to Emory University. Before the initial session and again after each subsequent session, patient assessments, both self-reported and clinically rated, were conducted.

Emory reports, “Researchers found as early as session five that individuals who received SMT showed greater improvement of anxiety symptoms than those who received light touch. There was also a decrease in depression symptoms among those who received massage.”

Lead researcher Mark Hyman Rapaport, MD, said that the findings if replicated in a larger study, will have significant implications for patients and providers. He added that more work needs to be done to understand how the biology of massage can help treat a variety of anxiety and mood disorders.

The GAD study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.


BIOTONE funds research to advance CAM adoption

This research adds to the growing body of research about the benefit of massage and other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for mainstream healthcare. Over the years, BIOTONE has funded research conducted by the Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine to understand massage therapy's value for lower back pain, hand arthritis pain, and breast cancer. Regarding the latter, TRI’s research found that massage therapy increased the number of natural killer cells known to destroy cancer cells in women with breast cancer, thereby increasing patient immune function.

BIOTONE also has been a long-time supporter of the Community Grants Program of the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) to bring massage therapy to underserved communities for a range of healthcare issues and at the same time add to the industry’s knowledge about the benefits of massage for a wide range of health conditions.  I was very proud to recently receive the John Balletto Distinguished Service Award for BIOTONE’s financial contributions to this outstanding ongoing program.

This year BIOTONE MTF funding will support HandReach in Falmouth, MA, in its efforts to provide massage and burn therapy for an underserved burn population in New England. Another grant recipient is the Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Ill., which provides massage therapy for children with life-threatening medical conditions and chronic illnesses.

The number of medical conditions that benefit from massage therapy is growing. This means an even more significant role for massage therapy professionals in treating clients' healthcare needs in the years ahead.


Business & marketingMassage therapySpa therapy