Adolescents, Aggression, and Massage

Last week I wrote about a study posted on the Touch Research Institute’s Web site about the effect massage therapy and touch can have on infants (massage therapy, according to the study, was shown to improve responsiveness among infants. Click to see my post).

This week I want to focus on a different study, also posted on the Touch Research Institute’s Web site, but available, for free, online as well (click here). This study focuses on massage therapy’s effectiveness in decreasing rates of aggression among adolescents.

As the study notes, aggression remains one of the most difficult problems among adolescents as far as treatment goes. Due to the complexity of the factors that make adolescents aggressive, as well as the “unpleasant” side effects of drugs meant to deal with aggression among youths, complementary treatments, like massage therapy, can be extremely beneficial where effective.

In the study, a group of adolescents who were patients at a child and adolescent psychiatry outpatient clinic and had high, documented levels of aggression were either provided with massage therapy or relaxation therapy. The group that received massage therapy received 20-minute chair massages twice a week, while the other group received muscle-relaxation therapy, also in 20-minute sessions, administered verbally, twice a week. The relaxation therapy focused on using verbal instructions (no touch) to help relax areas of the body (back, arms, and neck) that were instead physically soothed for the group that received massage therapy.

The most positive results in the study ended up coming from the group that received massage therapy and not relaxation therapy. The recipients of massage therapy were quantitatively shown to be less aggressive, anxious, and depressed after the study was completed. Specifically, the adolescents who received massage therapy were more than 10 percent less aggressive and hostile, while scoring 20 percent lower overall on their aggression readings.

The adolescents who received only relaxation therapy – and no massage therapy – saw their aggression levels dip much less significantly, with decreases in their overall aggression readings of only a little over 5 percent – a huge difference from the results seen from the recipients of massage therapy.

In last week’s blog, massage therapy was demonstrated to improve development in infants. This week shows massage therapy’s ability to help children recover from unhealthy levels of aggression. Massage therapy is thus a practice that can help both build up healthy behavior as well as reinforce it. In the following weeks, I plan on writing about ways massage therapy helps adults live healthier lives.

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