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 Bodywork & Somatic Therapies: Scientific Support for Massage and Bodywork 

Pain Control. Massage has also been shown to stimulate the body's ability to control pain naturally. One study showed that massage stimulates the brain to produce endorphins, chemicals that control pain.7

Lymphedema. Lymph drainage massage has been found to be more effective than mechanized methods or diuretic drugs to control lymphedema (a form of swelling) caused by radical mastectomy. It can be expected that using massage to control lymphedema will significantly lower treatment costs. This is based on a study comparing massage with the use of sleeve-like pressure cuffs often worn by women with lymphedema.8

Inflammatory Bowel Disease. A study found that massage therapy can have a powerful effect on psychoemotional distress in patients with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Stress can worsen the symptoms of these conditions, which can lead to great pain, bleeding, and hospitalization or death. Massage therapy was effective in reducing the frequency of episodes of pain and disability in these patients.9

Therapeutic Touch and Wound Healing. A controlled trial examined the effects of Therapeutic Touch on healing identical surgically inflicted minor wounds in the shoulders of forty-four male college students. Twenty-three received Therapeutic Touch treatments and twenty-one did not. Neither group was aware of the purpose of the experiment and those treated were not aware they were being treated. After eight days, the treated group's wounds had shrunk an average of 93.5 percent compared to 67.3 percent for those untreated. After sixteen days the figures were 99.3 percent and 90.9 percent.10

Reflexology and PMS. A controlled clinical study of thirty-eight women with premenstrual syndrome examined the effects of a thirty-minute reflexology treatment weekly for eight weeks. Those receiving the treatment were treated by ear, hand, and foot reflexology. Those in the control group were given placebo or sham reflexology. Based on a daily diary that monitored the severity of thirty-eight premenstrual symptoms, the treated group had a 46-percent reduction, which was a significantly greater reduction than the 19-percent reduction of the control group.

Unlike some of the hormone-altering drugs and antidepressant medications that are often used, the treatment produced no side effects. The researchers concluded that reflexology might work by softening adrenocortical reactivity to stress, which is known to exacerbate symptoms in PMS.11

Touch Research Institute, University of Miami

The most comprehensive program of massage-related research is the University of Miami's Touch Research Institute. Created in 1991 by the school of medicine, it is the world's first center for basic and applied research in the use of touch in human health and development. Directed by Tiffany Field, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, pediatrics, and psychiatry, the TRI has a multidisciplinary staff of forty scientists from the fields of medicine, biology, and psychology and another thirty visiting scientists from other universities participating in collaborative studies.

A plethora of studies have demonstrated impressive benefits for integrating massage therapy into medical care. In one study, premature infants treated with daily massage therapy gained 47 percent more weight per day and had shorter hospital stays by six days than those that were not massaged, resulting in cost savings of approximately $3000 per infant.12

(Excerpted from The American Holistic Health Associations Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine ISBN: 0446518174)
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 About The Author
William Collinge MPH, PhDWilliam Collinge, PhD, MPH is a consultant, author, speaker and researcher in the field of integrative health care. He has served as a scientific review panelist for the National Institutes of Health in mind/body......more
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