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Alzheimer's Disease

Massage Therapy and Alzheimer's Disease

08/21/2003

Question:

I am a Massage Therapist student writing a paper on the positive affects of massage on a patient with Alzheimers. Any info that you could provide on this subject would be helpful.

Answer:

Massage therapy is increasingly being recognized for its beneficial effects on physical healing and psychosocial well-being. A review article by Field (2002) describes research that supports massage therapy as promoting weight gain in infants, lessening depression in children and adolescents, and alleviating pain in various pain syndromes. There are reports of massage therapy reducing stress markers and encouraging feelings of closeness and relaxation. Most of the research on massage in patients with dementia addresses its potential to reduce agitation. Rowe and Alfred (1999) found that physical expressions of agitation were diffused by slow-stroke massage, but not verbal agitation. Similarly Woods and Dimond (2002) noted a significant decrease in agitated behavior associated with therapeutic touch. Hand massage and therapeutic touch produced a relaxation response in persons with dementia, but did not decrease agitation behavior (Snyder, Egan, & Burns, 1995). This is important work because agitation often precipitates nursing home placement and is stressful for both the patient and caregiver. I used the keywords "Alzheimer`s disease" and "massage" to locate these articles in the MD Consult and PubMed databases. References Field, T. (2002). Massage therapy. Medical Clinics of North America, 86(1). Rowe, M., Alfred, D. (1999). The effectiveness of slow-stroke massage in diffusing agitated behaviors in individuals with Alzheimer`s disease. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 25, 22-34. Snyder, M., Egan E.C., & Burns, K. R. (1995). Interventions for decreasing agitation behaviors in persons with dementia. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 21(7), 34-40. Woods, D.L., & Dimond, M. (2002). The effect of therapeutic touch on agitated behavior and cortisol in persons with Alzheimer`s disease. Biological Research for Nursing, 4, 104-114. 

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Response by:

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

Wendy Lemere, MSN, RN, CS
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University