An exploratory study of neurohormonal responses of healthy men to massage

J Altern Complement Med. 2008 May;14(4):387-94. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0660.


Objective: This research examined the relationship between plasma oxytocin (OT), arginine vasopressin (AVP), cortisol, and anxiety before, during, and after a massage in healthy adult men.

Design: A randomized, controlled, crossover, repeated-measures, prospective experimental design with subjects acting as their own controls was used.

Setting: The research was conducted at a Midwestern University.

Subjects: Fourteen (14) healthy men between the ages of 19 and 45 years of age were randomly assigned to the order of two conditions: a 20-minute massage (experimental condition) or a 20-minute reading period (control condition).

Methods: Blood samples were collected at time intervals during each data collection session. Plasma OT, AVP, and cortisol levels were evaluated by enzyme immunoassay (EIA). The Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory (SAI) and autonomic measures were recorded pre- and postcondition.

Results: Both experimental (massage) and control (reading) conditions elicited a significant increase in plasma OT levels (p < 0.05) and a decrease in SAI score (p < 0.05) from pre- to postintervention. A significant positive correlation was detected between plasma AVP and plasma cortisol (r = 0.63, n = 24, p = 0.001) in the massage group, whereas a significant positive correlation between plasma AVP and the SAI (r = 0.47, n = 25, p = 0.016) was observed in the reading group. No significant differences were observed for the autonomic measures between conditions.

Conclusions: The finding that plasma OT levels increased in both the massage and reading groups, suggests that tactile stimulus is not necessary for OT release. The results suggest that another unknown factor associated with reduction of anxiety may be involved.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / metabolism*
  • Arginine Vasopressin / blood*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxytocin / blood*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values


  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Oxytocin
  • Hydrocortisone