|is director of the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She is recipient of the American Psychological Association Boyd McAndless Distinguished Young Scientist Award and has had a Research Scientist Award from the NIMH for her research career. She is the author of Infancy, The Amazing Infant, Touch, Advances in Touch, Touch Therapy and Massage Therapy Research, the editor of a series of volumes on High-Risk Infants, and on Stress & Coping, and the author of over 450 journal papers.|
Massage Therapy is increasingly being used as a complementary/alternative therapy not only because many people with psychological, behavioral, and physical problems are touch-deprived but also because of its therapeutic effects. Recent research suggests that massage therapy: 1) facilitates growth and development; 2) reduces depressive behavior and anxiety patterns and related stress hormones; 3) enhances sleep; 4) reduces pain; 5) reduces autoimmune disorders; and 6) enhances immune function. These effects have been noted in samples, for example, of preterm neonates, depressed children and adults, chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and migraine headaches, autoimmune problems including asthma and diabetes and immune disorders including HIV and cancer. A potential underlying mechanism is enhanced parasympathetic activity (increased vagal tone) following massage therapy, decreased stress hormones (cortisol) and increased serotonin (the bodys natural pain killer and antidepressant), in turn, leading to increased natural killer cell activity (front line of the immune system) warding off viral and cancer cells. In addition, cognitive performance is enhanced by massage therapy which may relate to changes noted in EEG patterns that are indicative of heightened alert behavior patterns. These data highlights the therapeutic effects and potential underlying mechanisms for this complementary/alternative therapy.