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Massage Today
June, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 06

Spotlight on Research

By Editorial Staff

Editor's note: This periodic column keeps you abreast of the latest research documenting the benefits of massage and bodywork. Published research is summarized, with references to the full study text provided; abstracts of research are reproduced with minimal edits.

The following abstract was presented at the 2003 AMTA National Convention; it appears in Massage Today with permission from the author.

If you would like your research abstract or summary published in Spotlight on Research, please contact us at .

The acute effects of myofascial trigger-point massage therapy on cardiac autonomic tone in healthy subjects.
Joe Delaney, FIBMS, PhD; King Sun Leong, BMed Sci, BMBS, MRCP, MD; Alan Watkins BSc, MBBS; David Brodie, BSc, MIBiol, PhD.

Aim: To investigate the effects of myofascial trigger-point massage therapy to the head, neck and shoulder areas on cardiac autonomic tone.

Background: No studies have reported on the effect of back massage on autonomic tone as measured by heart rate variability. This is especially relevant to the nursing profession, as massage is increasingly available as a therapy complementary to conventional nursing practice.

Design: An experimental study in which subjects were initially placed in age- and sex-matched groups and then radomised to treatment or control by alternate allocation.

Methods: The study involved 30 healthy subjects (16 female and 14 male, aged 32.5 ± 8.5 years). A five-minute cardiac inter-beat interval recording, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and subjective self-evaluations of muscle tension and emotional state were taken before and after intervention. Autonomic function was measured using time and frequency domain analysis of heart rate variability.

Results: Following myofascial trigger-point massage therapy, there was a significant decrease in heart rate (P < 0.0001), systolic blood pressure (P < 0.02) and diastolic blood pressure (P < 0.01). Analysis of heart rate variability revealed a significant increase in parasympathetic activity following myofascial trigger-point massage therapy. Both muscle tension and emotional state, showed significant improvement (P > 0.001).

Conclusion: In normal healthy subjects, myofascial trigger-point massage therapy to the head, neck and shoulder areas is effective in increasing cardiac parasympathetic activity and improving measures of relaxation.

Keywords: Massage, heart rate variability, autonomic tone, muscle tension, relaxation.

Access this study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing 2002;37(4):364-371. For more information, contact Dr. Joe Delaney at .


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