Physiological responses to touch massage in healthy volunteers



      To evaluate effects of touch massage (TM) on stress responses in healthy volunteers.


      A crossover design including twenty-two (mean age=28.2) healthy volunteers (11 male and 11 female) cardiac autonomic tone was measured by heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV). Stress hormone levels (cortisol) were followed in saliva. We also measured blood glucose and serum insulin. Extracellular (ECV) levels of glucose, lactate, pyruvate and glycerol were followed using the microdialysis technique (MD). TM was performed on hands and feet for 80 min, during control, participants rested in the same setting. Data were collected before, during, and after TM and at rest. Saliva cortisol, serum glucose, and serum insulin were collected before, immediately following, and 1 h after intervention or control, respectively.


      After 5 min TM, HR decreased significantly, indicating a reduced stress response. Total HRV and all HRV components decreased during intervention. Saliva cortisol and insulin levels decreased significantly after intervention, while serum glucose levels remained stable. A similar, though less prominent, pattern was seen during the control situation. Only minor changes were observed in ECV levels of glucose (a decrease) and lactate (an increase). No significant alterations were observed in glycerol or pyruvate levels throughout the study. There were no significant differences between groups in ECV concentrations of analyzed substances.


      In healthy volunteers, TM decreased sympathetic nervous activity, leading to decreased overall autonomic activity where parasympathetic nervous activity also decreased, thereby maintaining the autonomic balance.


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