Massage therapy as a complementary treatment for Parkinson's disease: A Systematic Literature Review

Complement Ther Med. 2020 Mar;49:102340. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102340. Epub 2020 Feb 6.


Objective: There is no definite cure for Parkinson's disease (PD); therefore, the goals for symptomatic treatment are to improve quality of life and manage the motor and non-motor symptoms of the disease. Although massage is the one of the commonest used forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), there is no systematically-oriented review focusing specifically on the efficacy of the different massage techniques on PD.Aim of this review was to evaluate the quality of evidence referring to massage therapy for PD.

Design: A systematic search was conductedin the MEDLINE database to identify the efficacy of massage on PD between 01/01/1970 and 06/12/2019.

Results: A total of 12 studies were analyzed in this systematic review. Massage therapy seems to induce relaxation in most cases, which is accompanied by biological measures involving urine stress hormones. Quality of life has been shown to be improved upon various therapeutic massage styles, involving classical whole-body therapeutic massage and reflexology. Non-motor symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, pain, fatigue, anxiety and depressive symptoms have been demonstrated to be improved upon different massage techniques, including classical deep therapeutic massage, Traditional Japanese (Anma) massage, Thai massage, neuromuscular therapy and Yin Tui Na massage. Regarding motor symptoms, classical therapeutic massage, Traditional Japanese (Anma) massage, Thai massage, and neuromuscular therapy seemed to improve motor symptoms, whereas Yin Tui Na technique combined with acupuncture was associated with worse motor scores.

Conclusions: Despite the methodological concerns regarding the existing evidence, there is a wide range of safe massage techniques with beneficial effects on both motor and non-motor symptoms of PD. Longitudinal studies are needed to justify the introduction of massage therapy into clinical practice.

Keywords: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); Massage therapy; Non-motor symptoms; Parkinson’s disease (PD); Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Massage*
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*
  • Quality of Life