Benefits of massage therapy for infants with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease

Biol Res Nurs. 2014 Oct;16(4):387-97. doi: 10.1177/1099800413516187. Epub 2013 Dec 30.


Objectives: This randomized controlled pilot trial was conducted to evaluate the clinical efficacy of massage therapy (MT) for relief of symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The hypothesis was that, when compared to infants who received nonmassage therapy, infants who received MT would display fewer GERD symptoms, greater weight gain, greater amount of sleep, lower cortisol levels before and after treatment, and lower daily (area under the curve [AUC]) cortisol secretion.

Methods: Participants were 36 infants born at term, 4-10 weeks of age at enrollment, healthy except for a diagnosis of GERD by their pediatrician, and with a score of at least 16 on the Infant Gastroesophageal Reflux Questionnaire-Revised (I-GERQ-R). Infants were randomized to receive either MT or a nonmassage sham treatment in their homes for 30 min twice a week for 6 weeks. Data collectors and parents were blind to study condition.

Results: GERD symptoms decreased in both groups and weight increased. Pretreatment salivary cortisol levels decreased significantly over time in the massage group while increasing in the nonmassage group. Daily cortisol level also decreased in the massage group and increased in the nonmassage group, but the difference was not significant.

Conclusions: MT administered by a professional therapist did not affect symptoms of GERD differently than a sham treatment but did decrease infant stress as measured by cortisol. Research focusing on stress reduction in infants with GERD and multimodal treatments addressing GERD symptoms may yield the most effective treatment.

Keywords: GERD; gastroesophageal reflux; infant; massage therapy; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Infant
  • Massage*
  • Sleep
  • Weight Gain


  • Hydrocortisone