Objective: To assess the effect of therapeutic massage for improving sequelae in stroke survivors.
Methods: A systematic review of the nine medical databases from January 1961 to December 2020 was carried out. The bibliography was screened to identify randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs). Two reviewers independently screened references, selected relevant studies, extracted data and assessed the risk of bias using the PEDro scale. The primary outcome was upper and lower limb motor function and spasticity.
Results: A total of 3196 studies were identified and 18 RCT were finally included (1989 individuals). A meta-analysis of RCTs in the comparison of Chinese massage (Tuina) plus conventional physiotherapy versus conventional physiotherapy was performed. The mean difference (MD) in the subacute stage on upper limb motor-function using the Fugl Meyer Assessment was 2.75; (95% confidence interval (CI) from 0.97 to 4.53, p = 0.002, I2 = 36%). The MD on upper limb spasticity using modified Ashworth scale was -0.15; (95% CI from -0.24 to -0.06, p < 0.02, I2 = 0%).The MD on lower limb spasticity was -0.59; (95% CI from -0.78 to -0.40, p < 0.001, I2 = 0%) in the endpoint.
Conclusions: Therapeutic massage, especially Tuina, in addition to conventional therapy is effective for improving motor function and for reducing spasticity in stroke survivors.
Keywords: Tuina; massage therapy; motor function; soft manipulation; spasticity; stroke.