Objective: The objective was to assess the effects of massage compared to guided relaxation on stress perception and well-being among older adults.
Design: A randomised pilot study enrolled adults ages 60 and older to receive 50 min, twice weekly massage therapy or guided relaxation sessions. Questionnaires were administered at pre-test (1 week before the first session) and post-test (after the last session).
Setting: Participants came to the University of South Carolina campus for sessions. Adults aged 60 and older were recruited from community venues and were briefly screened by telephone for contraindications.
Intervention: Participants (n=54) received 50 min massage or guided relaxation sessions twice weekly for 4 weeks. The massage included Swedish, neuromuscular, and myofascial techniques. For the relaxation group, an appropriately trained assistant read a script to guide the participant in using visualization and muscle relaxation.
Main outcome measures: The General Well-being Schedule is an 18-item scale with subscales measuring anxiety, depression, positive well-being, self-control, vitality, and general health. The Perceived Stress Scale is a 14-item scale assessing the degree to which situations in one's life are appraised as stressful during the past month.
Results: Significant improvements were found for the anxiety, depression, vitality, general health, and positive well-being subscales of the General Well-being Schedule and for Perceived Stress among the massage participants compared to guided relaxation.
Conclusions: Findings indicate that massage therapy enhances positive well-being and reduces stress perception among community-dwelling older adults.