2010 – Massage Therapy Produces Long-Term Modulation of Postural Control and Sensorimotor Measures in Older Persons

Posted:Friday, March 31, 2017

JoEllen Sefton, PhD, ATC, CMT,
Ceren Yarar,
Jack Berry
Auburn University

Objectives: Falls are a leading contributor to death/injury in older persons. Clinical evidence suggests massage therapy (MT) may influence balance. A non-pharmacological intervention for balance could enhance seniors quality of life. Understanding the long-term effects of MT on balance is vital for developing safe, effective MT treatment protocols.

Purpose: investigate the long-term effects full-body MT on postural control and nervous system measures in healthy, older adults.

Methods: Thirty-five healthy volunteers (19 male and 16 female; ages 62.9±4.6 years) participated. The treatment group received a 60-minute, full-body MT treatment for 6 weeks; the control group rested quietly. Testing sessions took place the 1st, 6th and 7th weeks. Outcome measures: Pre-treatment; immediate post, 20 min. post, and 60 min post-treatment center of pressure (COP) measures [rectangular and effective areas, average velocity (Vavg)]; and motoneuron pool excitability measures: Hmax/Mmax, paired reflex depression (PRD), and recurrent inhibition (RI) during single and double leg stance with eyes-open and closed.

Results: A 2×4 ANCOVA revealed significant treatment effects for COP measures in eyes-open double-legged (rectangular: F1,33= 10.3, p£ 0.01; effective: F1,33= 7.2, p= 0.01; Vavg: F1,33= 7.54, p£ 0.01) , eyes-closed double-legged (rectangular F1,33= 9.59, p= £; effective F1,33= 10.6, p£ 0.01; Vavg: F1,33= 5.15, p£ 0.05), and eyes open single-legged stance (effective: F1,33= 5.47, p£ 0.05; Vavg= F1,33= 6.56, p= 0.01) 7 weeks post-MT in treatment group. A significant treatment effect was found for the Hmax/Mmax ratio (F1, 33= 11.4; p£ 0.05), with a lower mean in the treatment group (treatment x= 0.19±0.02; control x= 0.30±0.02).

Conclusion: Long-term MT may improve static and functional balance for up to a week after treatments have ceased. Reduced Hmax/Mmax ratio suggests inhibition of motoneuron pool excitability which may have a direct influence on muscle activity, which suggests a physiological mechanism for improved ability to maintain upright stance.