Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

UF Pilot Study Shows Massage, Relaxation Reduce Sickle Cell Anemia Pain

Date:
September 27, 2000
Source:
University Of Florida Health Science Center
Summary:
Thoughts of massage might conjure up images of an indulgence enjoyed by those fortunate enough to frequent a spa or by the athletic elite. But a little scientific scrutiny is showing it not only kneads away stress and soothes sore muscles - it can ease pain, tension and fatigue for those suffering from several medical conditions, including cancer and low-back problems.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.---Thoughts of massage might conjure up images of an indulgence enjoyed by those fortunate enough to frequent a spa or by the athletic elite. But a little scientific scrutiny is showing it not only kneads away stress and soothes sore muscles - it can ease pain, tension and fatigue for those suffering from several medical conditions, including cancer and low-back problems.

Now University of Florida researchers say massage could wind up helping patients with sickle cell anemia, an inherited disorder of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells. Results from a small UF pilot study that compared massage and relaxation therapy show both techniques safely and effectively reduced pain.

Sickle cell anemia is especially prevalent among black Americans: About 1 in 600 has a form of the disease, characterized by distorted, sickle-shaped red blood cells that logjam in vessels. The clogging decreases blood flow to various organs, causing intense, debilitating pain. Patients report recurrent, unpredictable episodes of sudden severe pain in the legs, arms or back, as well as chronic aching pain. Medical management of acute pain includes the use of potent painkillers and hydration, and many people end up hospitalized until the episode subsides.

Doctors would like to find alternative methods of pain control for people with sickle cell anemia because they are concerned about the long-term use of heavy-duty medication such as opiates. These medicines are sedating and can cause several side effects.

"Previous research has shown that massage is associated with pain reduction," said Cynthia Myers, a postdoctoral research associate in the UF College of Dentistry's division of public health services and research. "We thought it made sense to try it, both for the relaxation response it would evoke as well as the mechanical effects of working on muscles and applying pressure to increase circulation."

Myers presented findings from the UF study, conducted through the colleges of Health Professions and Medicine, during a poster session at the American Massage Therapy Association's annual conference Sept. 22-23 in Phoenix. UF researchers also published results from the pilot study in the journal Alternative Health Practitioner last winter.

Relaxation is a physiological reaction that causes blood vessels to dilate, improving blood flow, and researchers speculated that this might keep sickled cells from blocking vessels.

"We hypothesized that a second component of massage, which might add an effect over and above the relaxation effect, is the mechanical aspect of actually moving blood through vessels by the stroking involved in the massage itself," said Michael Robinson, a clinical psychologist at UF's College of Health Professions.

UF researcher Dr. Richard Lottenberg, a professor in the division of hematology and oncology at UF's College of Medicine, said the treatments are worthy of study because sickle cell pain largely stems from the musculoskeletal system.

Sixteen people with sickle cell anemia, all older than 18, participated in the study, which was funded by a $10,000 grant from the American Massage Therapy Association Foundation. They completed standardized pain assessment questionnaires. They then were randomly assigned to attend six 30-minute massage sessions or to learn relaxation techniques during weekly meetings to help them cope with their pain. Myers and Scott P. Lamp, both licensed massage therapists, administered the treatments.

They used a toned down version of the Swedish massage techniques of effleurage and petrissage -- soothing, rhythmic strokes and some kneading, but no tapping or pounding. Patients continued to take medications to ease their pain.

Relaxation training consisted of a series of exercises that required participants to tense and relax muscles in a specified sequence throughout the body. Patients also engaged in a five-minute visualization exercise at the end of each session that encouraged them to enjoy the sensation of being relaxed. Relaxation is defined by decreased muscle tension and respiration, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and improved circulation.

"The focus of our study was on the daily background chronic pain that affects all facets of their lives, from their ability to work to their avocational interests to their activities of daily living," Robinson said. "That pain can be to varying degrees and can be quite debilitating."

Researchers recorded pain levels and participants' ability to function before and after the study. Both massage and relaxation appeared to help: Participants reported significant reductions in the amount of pain they were in, even after the first session - in some cases cutting their ratings of pain unpleasantness and intensity nearly in half.

Researchers cautioned that sickle cell anemia patients should only receive massage therapy administered by trained, licensed massage therapists or nurses. "These people have a serious illness and anyone working with them needs to work very closely with their medical providers," Myers said.

Robinson and Myers said the findings highlight the need for further research of a disease that historically has been underfunded, undertreated and underinvestigated. "I think clearly we don't know which components worked," Robinson said. "We don't know if it was relaxation. We don't know if it was the interaction and attention from a therapist."

Massage might increase the body's natural production of the brain chemical serotonin, which is associated with pain-relieving effects, said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Field recently began a study of massage therapy for the treatment of children with sickle cell anemia.

"There is also this theory called the gate theory," she added. "We know that the nerve receptors that are detecting pain are shorter and less insulated than the receptors that detect pressure, so what may happen during massage is the message to the brain from the pressure receptors gets there faster than the message from the pain receptors, and it 'closes the gate' (to the pain). It's all biochemical but that's a metaphor for what's happening."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Florida Health Science Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Florida Health Science Center. "UF Pilot Study Shows Massage, Relaxation Reduce Sickle Cell Anemia Pain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 September 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/09/000926110832.htm>.
University Of Florida Health Science Center. (2000, September 27). UF Pilot Study Shows Massage, Relaxation Reduce Sickle Cell Anemia Pain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/09/000926110832.htm
University Of Florida Health Science Center. "UF Pilot Study Shows Massage, Relaxation Reduce Sickle Cell Anemia Pain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/09/000926110832.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins