Leg massage therapy promotes psychological relaxation and reinforces the first-line host defense in cancer patients
Patients with cancer suffer a wide range of physical symptoms coupled with psychological stress. Moreover, cancer chemotherapy induces immunosuppression and consequently causes respiratory infections. Massage therapy has been reported to reduce symptoms in cancer patients via an increase in psychosocial relaxation and to enhance and/or improve immune function.
In the present study, we determined whether leg massage could induce psychosocial relaxation and activate the first line of the host defense system. To assess effects of rest and leg massage, 15 healthy volunteers rested on a bed for 20 min on the first day, and 3 days later the subjects received a standardized massage of the legs for 20 min with nonaromatic oil. Twenty-nine cancer patients also received the same standardized massage of the legs. Anxiety/stress was assessed before and just after the rest or the massage using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-s) and visual analogue scale (VAS). To evaluate oral immune function, salivary chromogranin A (CgA) and secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) levels were measured.
In healthy volunteers, rest significantly reduced VAS by 34% and increased sIgA by 61%. In contrast, leg massage significantly reduced both STAI-s and VAS by 24% and 63%, and increased both sIgA and CgA by 104% and 90%, respectively. In cancer patients, leg massage significantly decreased both STAI-s and VAS by 16% and 38%, and increased both salivary CgA and sIgA by 33% and 35%, respectively.
Leg massage may promote psychosocial relaxation and reinforce a first-line host defense with an increase in secretion of antimicrobial peptides.