A randomized controlled trial of massage therapy in children with sickle cell disease

J Pediatr Psychol. Nov-Dec 2009;34(10):1091-6. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsp015. Epub 2009 Mar 12.


Objective: This randomized controlled trial investigated the short-term effects of massage therapy on youth with SCD and their parents.

Methods: Thirty-four children and adolescents, and their parents were assigned to a massage therapy or an attention control group. Parents were trained in massage in their homes once a week for 4 weeks, with instructions to provide nightly massages. Families in the control group were visited weekly by a research assistant. Participants completed measures of depression and anxiety, functional status, pain intensity, medication use, and service utilization.

Results: Parents in the massage therapy group reported higher levels of depression and anxiety following the intervention. Youth in this group showed higher levels of functional status, and lower levels of depression, anxiety, and pain. Health service utilization rates were unchanged from pre- to post-intervention.

Conclusions: These results offer preliminary support for parent-delivered massage therapy as an intervention for SCD pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / psychology
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / therapy*
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Child
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Home Nursing* / psychology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Massage* / psychology
  • Pain Measurement / psychology
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Philadelphia
  • Treatment Outcome