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Massage Today
October, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 10

Spotlight on Research

By Editorial Staff

This periodic column is intended to keep practitioners abreast of the latest research documenting the benefits of massage and bodywork. When full text of a published study is available, we summarize the study; when only the abstract is available, we reproduce it in its entirety.

Whenever possible, full attribution is given, including the complete reference and a link to the online version of the journal in which the study appeared.

Vagal Activity, Gastric Motility, and Weight Gain in Massaged Preterm Neonates
Miguel A. Diego, MA, PhD; Tiffany Field, OTR, MS, PhD; Maria Hernandez-Reif, MS, PhD

Objective: Multiple studies have documented an increase in weight gain after 5 to 10 days of massage therapy for preterm neonates. The massaged preterm neonates did not consume more calories than the control neonates. One potential mechanism for these effects might involve massage-induced increases in vagal activity, which in turn may lead to increased gastric motility and thereby weight gain.

Study design: The present randomized study explored this potential underlying mechanism by assessing gastric motility and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity in response to massage therapy (moderate pressure) versus sham massage (light pressure) and control conditions in a group of preterm neonates.

Results: Compared with preterm neonates receiving sham massage, preterm neonates receiving massage therapy exhibited greater weight gain and increased vagal tone and gastric motility during and immediately after treatment. Gastric motility and vagal tone during massage therapy were significantly related to weight gain.

Conclusion: The weight gain experienced by preterm neonates receiving moderate-pressure massage therapy may be mediated by increased vagal activity and gastric motility.


  • The Journal of Pediatrics, July 2005; Volume 147, Issue 1, pgs 50-55. To order a copy of the full text of this study, visit

Safety and Efficacy of Massage Therapy for Patients With Cancer
Lisa Corbin, MD, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, The Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital

Background: As the popularity of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) grows, patients are incorporating more CAM therapies into their conventional cancer care. Massage therapy, a CAM therapy known primarily for its use in relaxation, may also benefit patients with cancer in other ways. Massage can also be associated with risks in the oncology population. Risks can be minimized and benefits maximized when the clinician feels comfortable discussing CAM with his or her patients. This article reviews and summarizes the literature on massage and cancer to help provide the clinician with information to help facilitate discussions with patients.

Methods: MEDLINE and CINAHL databases were searched to identify relevant articles. These were reviewed for content and other pertinent references.

Results: Significant information was extracted from these resources to provide this overview of the use of massage for patients with cancer.

Conclusions: Conventional care for patients with cancer can safely incorporate massage therapy, although cancer patients may be at higher risk of rare adverse events. The strongest evidence for benefits of massage is for stress and anxiety reduction, although research for pain control and management of other symptoms common to patients with cancer, including pain, is promising. The oncologist should feel comfortable discussing massage therapy with patients and be able to refer patients to a qualified massage therapist as appropriate.


  • Cancer Control, July 2005; Volume 12, Issue 3, pgs 158-64. To download a free copy of the full text of this study, visit

Influence of Medical Massage Therapy on Arterial Blood Flow to the Contralateral Lower Extremities: A Pilot Study
Boris Prilutsky, MA

This is the abstract of a pilot study on the effect of medical massage therapy on arterial blood flow to the contralateral (non-massaged) lower extremities. This study was conducted in the Beverly Vascular Laboratory in Los Angeles by Dr. Harold B. Ross. The following test was utilized on contralateral lower extremities: Pulse volume recording (PVR) to measure the pulsation volume of lower extremity infusion. Two apparently healthy male subjects were tested: V.G. and I.P. This study was performed to determine whether there are any detectable changes in contra lateral arterial blood flow (if there is awakening of vasomotor reflex) resulting from the medical massage application on the lower extremities. Eighteen minutes of massage therapy was performed on the lower extremities.

Conclusions: There appeared two multi-phasic changes in PVR amplitude versus time. At one hour and two hours, post-application of medical massage, there appeared to be significant increases in the anterior pulse volume levels.

Recommendations: Develop a formal protocol for rigidly controlled tests with individuals who are apparently healthy, individuals with known pathology, and individuals that have a post-operative history for correction of lower extremities arterial blood insufficiency. This formal protocol will be the basis for a large, double-blind study.

Attention, massage therapists in the Los Angeles area: For the above-mentioned double-blind study, massage therapists are needed. In addition to your contribution to the massage therapy industry, you will be trained (at no charge) in how to perform a massage protocol in cases of peripheral vascular diseases; you will gain experience in working with scientists, medical doctors, and others; and you will get a letter of recognition of your participation in this study. Required volunteer hours are approximately three hours per week for five weeks. Prerequisite before participation in this study is the completion (at no charge) of an eight-hour course on medical massage in cases of peripheral vascular diseases. Interested massage therapists should call 1-310-836-8811 or e-mail .


  • Boris Prilutsky, MA, is the founding director of the Institute of Professional Practical Therapy (IPPT) in Los Angeles, Calif., and graduated from the Pedagogic Institute of Higher Education in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, with a degree in physical education, and Medical College in Ramat-Gan, Israel, with a major in chiropractic medicine. Prilutsky has worked with athletes and athletic organizations throughout Europe, has been a personal therapist to many world dignitaries, and has trained thousands of therapists worldwide. He also treats patients with various neural, muscular and skeletal disorders at the Back and Limb Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif.

For more information on the results of this pilot study or the anticipated double-blind study, contact Mr. Prilutsky via the phone number and/or e-mail address listed above.


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