Listed in Issue 109


MUELLER-OERLINGHAUSEN and colleagues, Kliniken im Theodor-Wenzel-Werk, Chefarzt Abt. Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Berlin,, have described the effects of slow massage on depressed patients.


Among complementary treatments of depression, massage plays an important role, but although there are some limited data available on the effects of massage on anxiety and depression, no randomized controlled studies have been performed of massage on inpatients with depression.


32 depressed inpatients were recruited for this study. The randomized cross-over design involved three massage sessions at set times and sessions in two control groups (relaxation and perception) lasting for 60 minutes. Treatments were set 2-3 days apart. Various observable characteristics of depression were measured before and after treatment, both in self-assessment by patients and by independent observers.


Patients in both groups showed marked improvements in almost all the variables measured, the effect being more marked in the massage group. After Bonferroni correction for multiple tests, the statistical significance remained stronger for massage in four dimensions (global tenseness, restlessness, depressed mood, neck/shoulder tension). The intensive effect of massage was confirmed by both female and male patients in their answers to open questions.


Slow-stroke massage is suitable as an adjuvant acute treatment for patients with depression. Depressed patients are able to recognize the sensory quality of therapeutic touching as a positive stimulus In view of the latent period of many weeks and the only moderate efficacy of antidepressants, the described complementary method should be more often applied in both a hospital and general practice setting.


Muller-Oerlinghausen B, Berg C, Scherer P, Mackert A, Moestl HP, Wolf J. Effects of slow-stroke massage as complementary treatment of depressed hospitalized patients. Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 129(24): 1363-1368, Jun 11, 2004.


In fact, in Scandinavian countries (notably in Norway) massage has been used routinely in the treatment of depression for decades. Out of this tradition, Gerda Boyesen developed her well-known biodynamic massage which has been used by many massage therapists and psychotherapists successfully with depressed people.

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