AN HIV STUDY: Massage Doesn't Boost Immune System

In four studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, Office of Alternative Medicines, massage therapy showed positive effects in reducing pain after surgery, improving weight gain and social development in the infants of HIV-positive mothers, and helping patients cope with bone marrow transplantation, massage therapy did not, however, significantly improve immune function in persons with moderately advanced HIV-1.

In research conducted by Thomas K Birk, PhD, at the Medical College of Ohio (Toledo), massage was evaluated as a therapeutic intervention for HIV/AIDS. Forty-two persons with HIV-compromised immune systems were assigned randomly to four groups. One group had massage only. A second group had massage and did aerobic exercises. The third group had massage, did aerobic exercises and engaged in stress management. The control group did not receive massage at all.

After 12 weeks of receiving forty minutes of massage each week, the immune measure (CD4 and natural killer cells) of the massage groups were no significantly increased beyond the measures of the control group. The massage did have some effect on mental/emotional state, and massage combined with stress management significantly lessened the use of medical care.

As a therapeutic intervention, however, the researcher concludes that "forty minutes of massage per week does not significantly increase the function of the immune system as measured by CD4 and natural killer cell counts in moderately compromised persons with HIV.

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The reports on all four studies into the efficacy of massage therapy are available from the Office of Alternative Medicines, National Institutes of Health.

Printed with Permission from Touch Therapy Times
Maryland Bodywork Reporter, 1996

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