Physiologic Effects of Rhythmical Massage: a Prospective Exploratory Cohort Study

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary MedicineVol. 20, No. 6


Objective: This study was performed to characterize the physiologic effects of rhythmical massage (RM), an anthroposophic therapy whose effectiveness is supported by empirical observations and a prospective observational study.

Methods: Patients referred to RM at the Paracelsus Hospital Richterswil for any indication were continuously enrolled. They received an average of 10 RM sessions, which included not only the massage but also therapeutic rest in the supine position immediately thereafter. Effects of RM on surface temperature and on heart rate variability (HRV) were determined with infrared imaging (IRI) and electrocardiography (ECG), respectively. IRI of the patients' dorsal region was performed without clothes, in standing position, at the start and at the end of two waiting periods before and after RM. ECG was performed from the beginning of the first waiting period until the end of the second one.

Results: Results on IRI from 9 and ECG from 11 patients could be analyzed. RM led to an immediate increase in dorsal temperature. Furthermore, comparison of the IRI images for consecutive RM sessions showed a tendency toward improved warmth distribution as a progressive therapy effect. Analysis of the EGC results recorded during the waiting periods-in the sitting position--showed a significant increase of HRV after RM, as detected by the standard deviation of the beat-to-beat periods and a relative increase of low-frequency power. During the course of the RM sessions, the change in HRV during the therapeutic rest period depended on the initial value: Low initial values were enhanced, whereas high ones were reduced.

Conclusions: RM led to an immediate increase in the patient's dorsal surface temperature, as well as increased HRV and sympathetic stimulation. In the long term, RM resulted in a progressive improvement of warmth distribution and regulation of the resting HRV.'

Chantal Wälchli, Georg Saltzwedel, Daniel Krüerke, Christoph Kaufmann, Bettina Schnorr, Lukas Rist, Jutta Eberhard, Michael Decker, and Ana Paula Simões-Wüst

Published Online:10 Jun 2014