Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system's cytotoxic capacity

Int J Neurosci. 1996 Feb;84(1-4):205-17. doi: 10.3109/00207459608987266.


Twenty-nine gay men (20 HIV+, 9 HIV-) received daily massages for one month. A subset of 11 of the HIV+ subjects served as a within subject control group (one month with and without massages). Major immune findings for the effects of the month of massage included a significant increase in Natural Killer Cell number, Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity, soluble CD8, and the cytotoxic subset of CD8 cells. There were no changes in HIV disease progression markers (CD4, CD4/CD8 ratio, Beta-2 microglobulin, neopterin). Major neuroendocrine findings, measured via 24 hour urines included a significant decrease in cortisol, and nonsignificant trends toward decrease of catecholamines. There were also significant decreases in anxiety and increases in relaxation which were significantly correlated with increases in NK cell number. Thus, there appears to be an increase in cytotoxic capacity associated with massage. Implications for HIV+ men as those with other illnesses, particularly cancer, are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Disease Progression
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • HIV Infections / therapy
  • HIV Seronegativity / immunology
  • HIV Seropositivity / immunology
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology
  • HIV Seropositivity / therapy
  • Hormones / blood
  • Hormones / urine
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Male
  • Massage*


  • Hormones
  • Hydrocortisone