Back massage therapy promotes psychological relaxation and an increase in salivary chromogranin A release

J Anesth. 2010 Dec;24(6):955-8. doi: 10.1007/s00540-010-1001-7. Epub 2010 Aug 5.


Massage therapy promotes psychosocial relaxation, reduces stress and has been reported to improve the immune function. As such, massage therapy is currently used in palliative care for the relief of anxiety and pain. Although psychosocial status has been evaluated using subjective psychological tests, such as State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), subjective psychological tests are of limited value if the subjects fail to report reliably. Salivary biomarkers have been recently suggested as useful objective markers for assessing psychosocial status. To determine whether salivary biomarkers are useful objective indices for assessing the effects of back massage on the mental status of 25 young healthy female volunteers, we measured heart rate and salivary biomarkers (α-amylase activity, cortisol, and chromogranin A) and assessed the STAI score before and after the back massage. Back massage significantly reduced the heart rate and STAI; however, salivary amylase and cortisol levels did not change. In contrast, the level of salivary chromogranin A significantly increased. We therefore conclude that changes in the salivary biomarkers tested here may not indicate changes in psychological status following massage therapy. However, the increase in chromogranin A release may contribute to the immunologically beneficial effects of massage therapy as chromogranin A has antibacterial and antifungal activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Back*
  • Biomarkers
  • Chromogranin A / chemistry
  • Chromogranin A / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Massage / psychology*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult
  • alpha-Amylases / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Chromogranin A
  • alpha-Amylases
  • Hydrocortisone