The effects of massage therapy on the human immune response in healthy adults
Little scientific investigation has been conducted to examine objectively the belief that massage therapy can effect the immune system of healthy people. If there are any links between massage therapy and improved immune function, the mechanisms by which they operate are not known. This study evaluated the effects of massage therapy on immune functions of two healthy females. Using a single-case experimental ABAB design, two subjects received a relaxing massage during the experimental phases (B) and no massage during baseline phases (A). Assays were conducted for T and B lymphocyte mitogen-induced proliferation, enumeration of T and B lymphocyte subsets, quantification of immunoglobulins A, G and M (IgA, IgG, IgM) and cortisol levels. Trait and state anxiety levels were also examined. The results indicated a consistent and significant trend of increased activity of both T and B lymphocytes and levels of serum IgG for both subjects during the B phases compared to the A phases. There were no other significant differences between experimental and control conditions for the remaining measures, although serum IgM levels approached significance (P=0.06). Both subjects demonstrated a reduction in trait anxiety over the period of massage therapy. Further studies with larger sample sizes in control and experimental groups, over a longer experimental period are necessary. The study of the effects of massage therapy poses an exciting challenge in psychoneuroimmunology.