1. Massage therapy for people with HIV/AIDS.

Hillier SL, Louw Q, Morris L, Uwimana J, Statham S.




Centre for Allied Health Evidence, University of South Australia (City East), North Terrace, Adelaide, SA, Australia, 5000.



Infection with human immunodeficency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficency syndrome (AIDS) is a pandemic that has affected millions of people globally. Although major research and clinical initiatives are addressing prevention and cure strategies, issues of quality of life for survivors have received less attention. Massage therapy is proposed to have a positive effect on quality of life and may also have a positive effect on immune function through stress mediation.


The objective of this systematic review was to examine the safety and effectiveness of massage therapy on quality of life, pain and immune system parameters in people living with HIV/AIDS.


A comprehensive search strategy was devised incorporating appropriate terms for HIV/AIDS, randomised controlled trials (RCTs), massage therapy and the pertinent measures of benefit. All electronic databases identified were searched in November 2008, including Cochrane Group Trials Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCIENCE CITATION INDEX, AIDSLINE, AIDSearch, CINAHL, HEALTHSTAR, PsycLIT, AMED, Current Contents, AMI, NLM GATEWAY, LILACS, IndMed, SOCIOFILE, SCI, SSCI, ERIC and DAI. We also reviewed relevant published and unpublished conference abstracts and proceedings and scrutinised reference lists from pertinent journals. There were no language or date restrictions.


Studies were identified by two reviewers based on trial design (RCTs) and participants (ie, people of any age with HIV/AIDS, at any stage of the disease) who had undergone an intervention that included massage therapy for the identified aims of improving quality of life and activity and participation levels, improving immune function, reducing pain and improving other physiological or psychological impairments.


Two reviewers independently identified included studies and extracted relevant data. Two other reviewers independently reviewed the included studies for risk of bias. All data and risk of bias judgements were entered into Revman (v5) and meta-analyses were conducted where appropriate.


Twelve papers were identified, from which four were included. The remaining eight papers were excluded predominantly due to inappropriate methodology. The four included studies were highly clinically heterogenous, investigating a range of age groups (ie, children, adolescents and adults) across the disease spectrum from early HIV through late-stage AIDS. The settings were either community or palliative care, and the outcome measures were a combination of quality of life and immunological function. The trials were judged to be at moderate risk of bias mostly because of incomplete reporting. For quality of life measures, the studies reported that massage therapy in combination with other modalities, such as meditation and stress reduction, are superior to massage therapy alone or to the other modalities alone. The quality of life domains with significant effect sizes included self-reported reduced use of health care resources, improvement in self-perceived spiritual quality of life and improvement in total quality of life scores. One study also reported positive changes in immune function, in particular CD4+ cell count and natural killer cell counts, due to massage therapy, and one study reported no difference between people given massage therapy and controls in immune parameters. Adverse or harmful effects were not well reported.


There is some evidence to support the use of massage therapy to improve quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), particularly in combination with other stress-management modalities, and that massage therapy may have a positive effect on immunological function. The trials are small, however, and at moderate risk of bias. Further studies are needed using larger sample sizes and rigorous design/reporting before massage therapy can be strongly recommended for PLWHA.

PMID: 20091636

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


2. Dominican Children with HIV not Receiving Antiretrovirals: Massage Therapy Influences their Behavior and Development.

Hernandez-Reif M, Shor-Posner G, Baez J, Soto S, Mendoza R, Castillo R, Quintero N, Perez E, Zhang G.




Touch Research Institutes, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Disease Prevention, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami, School of Medicine, USA, CENISMI/Robert Reid Cabral Children Hospital, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Miami-Dade County Health Department/Florida Department of Health, USA.


Forty-eight children (M age = 4.8 years) infected with HIV/AIDS and living in the Dominican Republic were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or a play session control group. The children in the massage therapy group received two weekly 20-min massages for 12 weeks; the children in the control group participated in a play session (coloring, playing with blocks) for the same duration and length as the massage therapy group. Overall, the children in the massage therapy group improved in self-help abilities and communication, suggesting that massage therapy may enhance daily functioning for children with HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the HIV infected children who were six or older also showed a decrease in internalizing behaviors; specifically depressive/anxious behaviors and negative thoughts were reduced. Additionally, baseline assessments revealed IQ equivalence below normal functioning for 70% of the HIV infected children and very high incidences of mood problems (depression, withdrawn) for 40% of the children and anxiety problems for 20% of the children, suggesting the need for better monitoring and alternative interventions in countries with limited resources to improve cognition and the mental health status of children infected with HIV/AIDS.

PMID: 18830444

[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

PMCID: PMC2529379

Free PMC Article


3. Effects of ice massage on neuropathic pain in persons with AIDS.

Ownby KK.




Department of Acute and Continuing Care, University of Texas Health Science Center School of Nursing, Houston, USA.


Peripheral neuropathic pain is a unique form of chronic pain that afflicts up to 50% of persons with AIDS. The purpose of this pilot study was to examine the effects of ice massage to reduce neuropathic pain and improve sleep quality and to determine the feasibility of a larger study. A repeated measures design was used. The three treatments consisted of ice massage, dry-towel massage, and presence. Consecutive sampling was used to select 33 persons with AIDS who had neuropathic pain. Although the results of the study were negative, there was a decrease in pain intensity over time with both the ice massage and towel massage, suggesting that the intervention has some clinical benefit.

PMID: 16979511

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


4. Impact of a massage therapy clinical trial on immune status in young Dominican children infected with HIV-1.

Shor-Posner G, Hernandez-Reif M, Miguez MJ, Fletcher M, Quintero N, Baez J, Perez-Then E, Soto S, Mendoza R, Castillo R, Zhang G.




Division of Disease Prevention, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA. gshor@med.miami.edu



The effectiveness of massage therapy on immune parameters was evaluated in young Dominican HIV+ children without current access to antiretroviral therapies.


Eligible children, who were followed at the Robert Reid Cabral Hospital (San Domingo, Dominican Republic), were randomized to receive either massage treatment or a control/friendly visit twice weekly for 12 weeks. Blood was drawn at baseline and following the 3-month intervention for determinations of CD4, CD8, and CD56 cell counts and percentage, along with activation markers (CD25 and CD69).


Despite similar immune parameters at baseline in the two groups, significantly more of the control group exhibited a decline in CD4 cell count (>30%, p = 0.03), postintervention. The decrease was particularly evident in older (5-8 years) children in the control arm, who demonstrated a significant reduction in both CD4 and CD8 cell counts compared to massage-treated older children who remained stable or showed immune improvement. Additionally, a significant increase in CD4+CD25+ cells was observed over the 12-week trial in the massage-treated older children (p = 0.04) but not in the control group. In younger massage-treated children, (2-4 years old), a significant increase in natural killer cells was shown.


Together these findings support the role for massage therapy in immune preservation in HIV+ children.

PMID: 16884341

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


5. Massage treatment in HIV-1 infected Dominican children: a preliminary report on the efficacy of massage therapy to preserve the immune system in children without antiretroviral medication.

Shor-Posner G, Miguez MJ, Hernandez-Reif M, Perez-Then E, Fletcher M.




Division of Disease Prevention, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL.



More than 1.4 million children are living with HIV and global access to antiretrovirals is not yet readily available. Massage therapy, which has been shown to improve immune function in HIV+ adults and adolescents, may provide an important complementary treatment to boost immune status in young children living with HIV disease, especially those without access to antiretroviral medications. No studies have been conducted, however, that specifically target massage therapy to enhance immune function in HIV+ children.


Clinical trial with eligible, consented HIV+ children randomized to receive either massage therapy or a friendly visit (controls).


CENISMI/Robert Reid Cabral Hospital, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.


HIV+ children ages 2-8 years.


Massage therapy sessions (20 minutes, twice weekly, for 12 weeks), conducted by trained nurses, following a structured protocol of moderate pressure stroking and kneading of muscles, using a non-scented oil. The friendly visit control group, (reading, talking, playing quiet games), met with the nurse twice weekly for 12 weeks.


At the initial evaluation, and following the 12-week intervention, blood was drawn to determine absolute helper (CD4/T4) and suppressor (CD8/T8) counts.


Children in the control arm had a greater relative risk of CD4 count decline (>20%) than massage-treated children (RR = 5.7, p = 0.03). Lymphocyte loss was also more extensive in the controls (p < 0.02), and more of the control group than the massage group lost >50 CD8 lymphocytes (p = 0.03).


The efficacy of massage therapy in maintaining immunocompetence may offer a viable alternative to the thousands of children worldwide without antiretroviral access.

Comment in

PMID: 15674006

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]