Effects of traditional Japanese massage therapy on gene expression: preliminary study

J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Jun;17(6):553-5. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0209. Epub 2011 May 19.


Objectives: Changes in gene expression after traditional Japanese massage therapy were investigated to clarify the mechanisms of the clinical effects of traditional Japanese massage therapy.

Design: This was a pilot experimental study.

Settings/location: The study was conducted in a laboratory at Tsukuba University of Technology.

Subjects: The subjects were 2 healthy female volunteers (58-year-old Participant A, 55-year-old Participant B).

Interventions: The intervention consisted of a 40-minute full-body massage using standard traditional Japanese massage techniques through the clothing and a 40-minute rest as a control, in which participants lie on the massage table without being massaged.

Outcome measures: Before and after an intervention, blood was taken and analyzed by microarray: (1) The number of genes whose expression was more than double after the intervention than before was examined; (2) For those genes, gene ontology analysis identified statistically significant gene ontology terms.

Results: The gene expression count in the total of 41,000 genes was 1256 genes for Participant A and 1778 for Participant B after traditional Japanese massage, and was 157 and 82 after the control, respectively. The significant gene ontology terms selected by both Participants A and B after massage were "immune response" and "immune system," whereas no gene ontology terms were selected by them in the control.

Conclusions: It is implied that traditional Japanese massage therapy may affect the immune function. Further studies with more samples are necessary.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunity / genetics*
  • Japan
  • Massage*
  • Medicine, East Asian Traditional*
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Research Design
  • Treatment Outcome