Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Proof-of-Concept, Randomized Controlled Study

J Clin Psychiatry. 2016 Jul;77(7):e883-91. doi: 10.4088/JCP.15m10151.

Abstract

Objective: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a prevalent and costly disorder for which many patients may prefer nontraditional treatment. A proof-of-concept study of was conducted to evaluate the acute effects of Swedish massage therapy (SMT) as a monotherapy for the treatment of subjects with GAD.

Methods: A randomized, single-masked, clinical trial was conducted between March 2012 and May 2013 at the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program of Emory University. Forty-seven currently untreated subjects with a DSM-IV diagnosis of GAD were randomly assigned to twice-weekly SMT versus a light touch control condition for 6 weeks. The primary outcome measure was reduction in Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS) scores after 6 weeks of treatment for SMT versus light touch, as determined by mixed model repeated-measures analysis of 40 evaluable subjects.

Results: Mean HARS baseline scores were 20.05 (SD = 3.34) for SMT and 19.58 (SD = 4.90) for light touch. At week 6, the difference in mean (standard error of the mean [SEM]) HARS score reduction was 3.26 points (SMT: -11.67 [1.09]; light touch: -8.41 [1.01]; t₁₀₆ = -2.19; P = .030; effect size = -0.69). Treatment group differences were significant (P < .05) starting at the end of week 3.

Conclusion: This first monotherapy trial suggests that a complementary and alternative manual therapy, SMT, is an effective acute treatment for GAD.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01337713.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01337713