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Prescription 2015: Hand Massage

September 1, 2015 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The finest natural therapies combine several important elements. Ideally, they’re free or low in cost and don’t require specialized equipment. They should be evidence-based and easy to perform. And, whenever possible, it helps if a remedy produces results consistently and quickly. A daily hand massage provides all of these attributes and many others.

Typically, when you have a massage you ask the masseuse to focus on areas that are painful and/or tense. Much like other forms of body work, hand massages can address localized symptoms. However, a growing body of research indicates that this simple practice can also minimize discomfort throughout the body. What’s more, symptomatic improvement isn’t exclusive to body aches. It’s now evident that hand massage benefits psychological health as well.

The proof for my assertions comes directly from the medical literature. Study after study reveals that hand massage and hand reflexology decrease pain duration and severity under numerous circumstances ranging from chronic pain in seniors to burn and surgical recovery. In many experiments, as little as five minutes of hand massage has, likewise, been shown to lessen anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance. This not only improves quality of life, it also results in reductions in medication use.

I have a few tips to help ensure the best possible results when adopting a hand massage routine. While five minutes may be enough for some, up to twenty minutes can optimize outcomes. Adding an aromatherapeutic component to the massage can further boost mood and relieve pain. Lavender essential oil has a good track record in this department. Using argan oil as a “carrier” or base oil for the lavender adds moisturizing and skin toning properties to the mixture. About 10 drops of lavender oil for every ounce of argan oil is a good starting point. Lastly, you can certainly massage your own hands if desired or necessary. But, getting and giving a massage to a loved one provides additional benefits such as enhanced communication and promoting feelings of intimacy.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Hand Pain Is Reduced By Massage Therapy … (link)

Study 2 – The Impact of Hand Reflexology on Pain, Anxiety and Satisfaction (link)

Study 3 – Effect of a Brief Massage on Pain, Anxiety, & Satisfaction w/ Pain (link)

Study 4 – Evaluation of the Preliminary Effectiveness of Hand Massage (link)

Study 5 – Effect of Shiatsu Massage on Pain Reduction in Burn Patients (link)

Study 6 – Aromatherapy Hand Massage for Older Adults w/ Chronic Pain (link)

Study 7 – Effect of Foot and Hand Massage in Post-Cesarean Section Pain (link)

Study 8 – Effect of Shiatsu Massage on Underlying Anxiety in Burn Patients (link)

Study 9 – Effect of Hand Massage on Preoperative Anxiety in Ambulatory (link)

Study 10 – Psychophysiological Effects of Hand Massage in Geriatric Facility (link)

Study 11 – A Randomised Controlled Trial of the Use of Aromatherapy and Hand (link)

Study 12 – Effects of Hand Massage on Anxiety in Patients Undergoing (link)

Study 13 – Effects of Aroma Hand Massage on Pain, State Anxiety and Depression (link)

Study 14 – Treatment Effects of Massage Therapy in Depressed People: A Meta- … (link)

Study 15 – Comparison of the Effect of Massage Therapy and Isometric Exercises (link)

Study 16 – Effectiveness of Lavender Essence on Strernotomy Related Pain (link)

Study 17 – Effect of Topical Application of Lavender Essential Oil on the Intensity (link)

Study 18 – Effects of Aromatherapy on Sleep Quality and Anxiety of Patients (link)

Study 19 – Does Lavender Aromatherapy Alleviate Premenstrual Emotional (link)

Study 20 – Effects Measurement of Hand Massage by the Autonomic Activity (link)

Study 21 – Effect of Massage Therapy on Autonomic Activity in Critically Ill (link)

Study 22 – Effect of Dietary and/or Cosmetic Argan Oil on Postmenopausal Skin (link)

Study 23 – Design, Characterization, and Clinical Evaluation of Argan Oil (link)

Study 24 – Physicochemical Characteristics, Nutritional Properties, and Health (link)

Study 25 – Effects on Couples’ Communication, Intimacy, Conflict and Quality (link)

Aromatherapy Hand Massage (Exp. Group) Reduces Anxiety

Source: J Korean Acad Nurs. 2008 Aug;38(4):493-502. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Mental Health

14 Comments & Updates to “Prescription 2015: Hand Massage”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated 09/01/15:


    Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Oct 31;18(4).

    Effects of Silexan on the serotonin-1A receptor and microstructure of the human brain: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over study with molecular and structural neuroimaging.

    BACKGROUND: Recently, Silexan, a patented active substance comprised of an essential oil produced from Lavandula angustifolia flowers, has been authorized in Germany as a medicinal product for the treatment of states of restlessness related to anxious mood. Its efficacy has been shown in several forms of anxiety disorders. Findings from preclinical and clinical studies attribute a major role to the serotonin-1A receptor in the pathogenesis and treatment of anxiety.

    METHODS: To elucidate the effect of Silexan on serotonin-1A receptor binding, 17 healthy men underwent 2 positron emission tomography measurements using the radioligand [carbonyl-(11)C]WAY-100635 following the daily intake of 160 mg Silexan or placebo for a minimum of 8 weeks (randomized, double-blind, cross-over design). Additionally, structural magnetic resonance imaging and voxel-based morphometry analysis was performed to determine potential effects on gray matter microstructure.

    RESULTS: Serotonin-1A receptor binding potential was shown to be significantly reduced following the intake of Silexan compared with placebo in 2 large clusters encompassing the temporal gyrus, the fusiform gyrus and the hippocampus on one hand as well as the insula and anterior cingulate cortex on the other hand. No effects of Silexan on gray matter volume could be detected in this investigation.

    CONCLUSION: This positron emission tomography study proposes an involvement of the serotonin-1A receptor in the anxiolytic effects of Silexan.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Updated 09/01/15:


    An Acad Bras Cienc. 2015 Aug 4:0.

    Antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil.

    Several studies have investigated the antinociceptive, immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of compounds found in the lavender essential oil (LEO), however to date, there is still lack of substantial data. The objective of this study was to assess the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects of lavender essential oil. The 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl radical decolorization assay was used for antioxidant activity evaluation. The anti-inflammatory activity was tested using two models of acute inflammation: carrageenan-induced pleurisy and croton oil-induced ear edema. The antinociceptive activity was tested using the pain model induced by formalin. LEO has antioxidant activity, which is dose-dependent response. The inflammatory response evoked by carrageenan and by croton oil was reduced through the pre-treatment of animals with LEO. In the pleurisy model, the drug used as positive control, dexamethasone, was more efficacious. However, in the ear swelling, the antiedematogenic effect of the oil was similar to that observed for dexamethasone. In the formalin test, LEO consistently inhibited spontaneous nociception and presented a similar effect to that of tramadol. The results of this study reveal (in vivo) the analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of LEO and demonstrates its important therapeutic potential.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 09/01/15:


    Food Chem. 2015 Dec 1;188:496-503.

    Assessing the bioavailability of polyphenols and antioxidant properties of extra virgin argan oil by simulated digestion and Caco-2 cell assays. Comparative study with extra virgin olive oil.

    Argan oil is becoming increasingly popular in the edible-oil market as a luxury food with healthy properties. This paper analyzes (i) the bioavailability of the polyphenol content and antioxidant properties of extra virgin argan oil (EVA) by the combination of in vitro digestion and absorption across Caco-2 cells and (ii) the protective role of the oil bioaccessible fraction (BF) against induced oxidative stress. Results were compared with those obtained with extra virgin olive oil (EVO). Higher values of polyphenols and antioxidant activity were observed in the BF obtained after the in vitro digestion of oils compared with the initial chemical extracts; the increase was higher for EVA but absolute BF values were lower than EVO. Bioaccessible polyphenols from EVA were absorbed by Caco-2 cells in higher proportions than from EVO, and minor differences were observed for antioxidant activity. Preincubation of cell cultures with BF from both oils significantly protected against oxidation, limiting cell damage and reducing reactive oxygen species generation.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 09/15/15:


    Am J Crit Care. 2015 Sep;24(5):446-9.

    Benefit to Family Members of Delivering Hand Massage With Essential Oils to Critically Ill Patients.

    BACKGROUND: In intensive care environments, patients’ families are often encouraged to participate in their loved one’s care; however, many family members feel anxious, depressed, and unsure about how to help patients.

    OBJECTIVES: To determine (1) the feasibility of teaching family members a simple intervention combining hand massage with essential oils in a trauma intensive care unit and (2) an effect size for use in designing a more powerful trial.

    METHOD: A quasi-experimental pilot study of the effect of a family-delivered touch treatment on anxiety and depression of family members of patients. Fifteen family members were assigned to a treatment group, and 15 family members were assigned to a control group. The treatment consisted of the application of hand massage with essential oils for 6 sessions. Each session lasted 5 minutes and was presented twice a day for 3 days.

    RESULTS: The 5-minute intervention was associated with positive change in anxiety and depression scores on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) among family members visiting patients. The magnitude of change (improvement) in anxiety scores within the group of treated family members was significantly greater than within family members in the control group.

    CONCLUSION: Administering a brief hand massage using pleasant-smelling oils to patients in an intensive care unit may reduce anxiety of family members who administer the treatment.

    Be well!


  5. David Says:


    Do you have a mailing list/newsletter?

  6. JP Says:

    Hi David,

    You can have my blogs delivered via email. Here’s how it works:

    1. Click on this link: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/healthyfellow

    2. Then, click on the link entitled, “Get Healthy Fellow delivered by
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    Please let me know if you have any trouble.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 12/10/15:


    J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2015 Dec 7.

    Effectiveness of Chinese Hand Massage on Anxiety Among Patients Awaiting Coronary Angiography: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    BACKGROUND: Anxiety is the most common negative emotion among the patients awaiting coronary angiography. The increased anxiety may exacerbate coronary heart disease symptoms and possibly contribute to complications during the procedure. Chinese hand massage is a nonpharmaceutical intervention that has been used in several clinical situations in China and might have beneficial effects on reducing anxiety before coronary angiography.

    OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of Chinese hand massage care on anxiety among patients awaiting coronary angiography.

    METHODS: One hundred eighty-five subjects awaiting coronary angiography in a single hospital in Fuzhou, China, between May 2012 and September 2012 were screened. One hundred eligible participants were recruited and randomly assigned into the control or Chinese hand massage group. The control group received the conventional therapies and care according to the guidelines, and those in the Chinese hand massage group received additional Chinese hand massage care in conjunction with the same conventional therapies and care as the control group. The anxiety scores (evaluated by using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale), heart rate, blood pressure, quality of life (Short-Form Health Survey), and the adverse events were recorded at the baseline and after coronary angiography, respectively.

    RESULTS: The scores of Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale in the Chinese hand massage group (11.78 [SD, 2.9]) had a statistically significant decrease compared with those in the control group (15.96 [SD, 3.4]) at post-procedure (P < .01). There was no statistically significant difference on blood pressure, heart rate, and Short-Form Health Survey at postangiography between the Chinese hand massage group and the control group. No adverse event was reported during the intervention period. CONCLUSIONS: Chinese hand massage effectively alleviated anxiety without any adverse effects among patients awaiting coronary angiography. Therefore, it might be recommended as a nonpharmacological nursing intervention. However, future study with a larger sample size is needed to further confirm the efficacy of Chinese hand massage intervention. Be well! JP

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 02/17/16:


    Int J Older People Nurs. 2016 Feb 15.

    Massage, a complementary therapy effectively promoting the health and well-being of older people in residential care settings: a review of the literature.

    AIMS: To explore the potential benefits of massage within daily routine care of the older person in residential care settings.

    BACKGROUND: Globally, the proportion of people over 65 years is rapidly rising. Increased longevity means older people may experience a rise in physiological and psychological health problems. These issues potentially place an increased demand for quality long-term care for the older person. Complementary approaches such as massage appear to be needed in quality residential care.

    DESIGN: A critical literature review was undertaken.

    METHODS: A literature review pertaining to massage in the older resident was conducted using a range of online databases. Fourteen studies dated 1993-2012 met the inclusion criteria and were critically evaluated as suitable resources for this review.

    RESULTS: Evidence suggests massage may be advantageous from client and nursing perspectives. Clients’ perceive massage to positively influence factors such as pain, sleep, emotional status and psychosocial health. Evidence also demonstrates massage to benefit the client and organisation by reducing the necessity for restraint and pharmacological intervention. Massage may be incorporated into care provision and adopted by care providers and family members as an additional strategy to enhance quality of life for older people.

    CONCLUSION: Massage offers a practical activity that can be used to enhance the health and well-being of the older person in residential care.

    IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Massage offers benefit for promoting health and well-being of the older person along with potential increased engagement of family in care provision. Integration of massage into daily care activities of the older person requires ongoing promotion and implementation.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 01/19/17:


    JAAPA. 2017 Feb;30(2):36-38.

    The effects of effleurage hand massage on anxiety and pain in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

    OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of effleurage hand massage performed by trained volunteers on reducing anxiety and pain in patients receiving treatment at a chemotherapy center in Fort Wayne, Ind., as measured by heart rate, respiratory rate, BP, visual analogue scale for anxiety (VAS-A), and visual analogue scale for pain (VAS-P).

    METHODS: Volunteers trained in effleurage massage gave 10-minute hand massages to 24 patients at the beginning of their chemotherapy session. Baseline and post-treatment vital signs were collected. Patients completed VAS-A and VAS-P scales before massage and after the chemotherapy session. Analysis of premassage and post-treatment data was performed using one-tailed Wilcoxon signed rank test.

    RESULTS: Significant reductions were noted in systolic BP (z=-1.66, P<0.05), heart rate (z=-3.902, P<0.001), VAS-A (z=-3.91, P<0.001), and VAS-P (z=-3.49, P<0.001); no significant difference was found for diastolic BP (P=0.47) or respiratory rate (P=0.06).

    CONCLUSION: In patients receiving chemotherapy, effleurage hand massages performed by trained volunteers effectively reduced anxiety and pain similar to previously reported results with massages administered by massage therapists. These findings could have important future implications, allowing for training of family members and caregivers in the technique of effleurage massage.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 02/09/17:


    Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jan 25;250:221-227.

    The physiological and emotional effects of touch: Assessing a hand-massage intervention with high self-critics.

    Research demonstrates that highly self-critical individuals can respond negatively to the initial introduction of a range of therapeutic interventions. Yet touch as a form of therapeutic intervention in self-critical individuals has received limited prior investigation, despite documentation of its beneficial effects for well-being. Using the Forms of Self-Criticism/Self-Reassuring Scale, 15 high- and 14 low- self-critical individuals (from a sample of 139 females) were recruited to assess how self-criticism impacts upon a single instance of focused touch. All participants took part in a hand massage- and haptic control- intervention. Salivary cortisol and alpha amylase, as well as questionnaire measures of emotional responding were taken before and after the interventions. Following hand massage, analyses revealed cortisol decreased significantly across all participants; and that significant changes in emotional responding reflected well-being improvements across all participants. Supplementary analyses further revealed decreased alpha amylase responding to hand massage as compared to a compassion-focused intervention in the same (highly self-critical) individuals. Taken together, the physiological and emotional data indicate high self-critical individuals responded in a comparable manner to low self-critical individuals to a single instance of hand massage. This highlights that focused touch may be beneficial when first engaging highly self-critical individuals with specific interventions.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 05/03/17:


    Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2017 May;27:31-36.

    The effect of hand reflexology on anxiety in patients undergoing coronary angiography: A single-blind randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND: This study aimed to evaluate effects of hand reflexology on anxiety level in coronary angiography patients.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: This clinical trial recruited 80 eligible patients >6 months. The patients were randomly assigned to receive routine care plus either hand reflexology or a simple hand massage. Data were collected using the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Both groups’ anxiety levels were measured before (T0) and 30 min (T1) and 1 h after the intervention (T2).

    FINDINGS: The mean anxiety level in the intervention group decreased from 57.54 at baseline to 55.47 after the intervention (P = 0.0001). The values in the control group were 54.27 and 51.4, respectively. The two groups had statistically significant differences in the mean scores of anxiety at T0 and T1 (P = 0.003), T1 and T2, and T0 and T2 (P = 0.0001).

    CONCLUSION: Hand reflexology could effectively decrease anxiety in coronary angiography patients.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 11/11/17:


    Explore (NY). 2017 Aug 25.

    Hand Massage for Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy as Outpatients: A Pilot Study.

    CONTEXT: There are no studies on the effect of volunteer-provided hand massage in a busy chemotherapy outpatient practice.

    OBJECTIVE: To assess the feasibility of introducing hand massage therapy into an outpatient chemotherapy unit and to evaluate the effect of the therapy on various symptoms experienced by cancer patients.

    DESIGN: A pilot, quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest study.

    SETTING: Chemotherapy outpatient clinic of a large tertiary care academic medical center.

    PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS: Forty chemotherapy outpatients.

    INTERVENTION: After being approached by a trained volunteer from a hand massage team, patients consented to receive a 20-minute hand massage before chemotherapy that was individualized according to patient preference and expressed needs.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The visual analog scale (VAS) was used to measure pain, fatigue, anxiety, muscular discomfort, nervousness, stress, happiness, energy, relaxation, calmness, and emotional well-being (on a scale from 0-10) before and after the intervention; a satisfaction survey was administered after the therapy. Patients’ demographic data were summarized with descriptive statistics, and VAS total scores were compared between groups at each time point with the two-group t test. Feasibility was evaluated from the number of patients who were approached, received a hand massage, and completed the study surveys.

    RESULTS: Of the 40 participants, 19 were men (mean age, 59.5 years). Significant improvement after hand massage was indicated by VAS scores for fatigue, anxiety, muscular discomfort, nervousness, stress, happiness, energy, relaxation, calmness, and emotional well-being (P < .05). Pain scores also improved, but the difference was not statistically significant (P = .06). All patients indicated that they would recommend hand massage to other patients, and 37 were interested in receiving it during their next chemotherapy treatment. Be well! JP

  13. JP Says:

    Updated 09/24/18:


    Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2018 Sep 12.

    The Effects of Hand Massage on Stress and Agitation Among People with Dementia in a Hospital Setting: A Pilot Study.

    Agitation in people with dementia is a growing concern as it causes distress for both patients and their nurses and may contribute to relational disorders. Previous studies involving patients with dementia living in long-term care facilities have reported decreased agitation following massage. The objective of this pilot study was to investigate the effect of hand massage on agitation and biological markers of stress in patients with dementia hospitalized in an acute geriatric psychiatry service. In this randomized controlled trial we included 40 agitated patients with dementia with an intervention group and a control group. The study is designed to test the effect of seven hand massages over three continuous weeks on agitation and levels of salivary cortisol (sC) and alpha-amylase (sAA). Compared to the control group, the intervention group exhibited larger increases in sC and sAA at week 1 from before to after the massage, but larger decreases at week 2 and 3, with a significant group effect for sAA at week 2. Agitation scores were not significantly different between the groups but tended to decrease more in the intervention group than the control group. This study provides first encouraging results suggesting that hand massage might have beneficial effects on stress and agitation in hospitalized patients with dementia. It also highlights the challenges associated with conducting such studies with this complex patient population. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings and the benefits of hand massage as part of routine care for patients with dementia.

    Be well!


  14. JP Says:

    Updated 01/20/19:


    Journal of Integrative Medicine Volume 17, Issue 1

    Effectiveness of hand self-shiatsu to improve sleep following sport-related concussion in young athletes: a proof-of-concept study

    Objective: The prevalence of sport-related concussion (SRC) is high and results in a number of serious health consequences. One area that has received minimal research is the relationship between SRC and sleep. The literature shows that sleep deficiency is a frequent negative consequence of SRC. At the same time, sleep deficiency delays recovery from SRC and contributes added risk of symptom recurrence. A 2014 study of chronic pain patients who learned to apply the complementary and alternative medicine intervention hand self-shiatsu (HSS) had promising, sleep-promoting results that warrant further investigation with other populations. This proof-of-concept study explored the feasibility of HSS as an intervention to promote sleep onset and continuity for young adults with SRC.

    Methods: This study employed a prospective case-series design, where participants act as their own controls. Baseline and follow-up data included standardized self-reported assessment tools and sleep actigraphy.

    Results: Seven athletes, aged between 18 and 25 years, participated in the study. Although statistically significant improvement in actigraphy sleep scores between baseline and follow-up was not achieved, metrics for sleep quality and daytime fatigue showed significant improvement.

    Conclusion: These findings support the hypothesis that HSS has the potential to improve sleep and reduce daytime fatigue in young postconcussion athletes. This pilot study provides guidance to refine research protocols and lays a foundation for further, large-sample, controlled studies.

    Be well!


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