This month the BBC series, 'Trust Me, I'm a Doctor' took a look at the research being done by Professor Fulvio D’Acquisto into the effects of massage on serious immune conditions. One of my lovely clients told me about the programme so I caught up on iPlayer, only to find that the group of therapists involved in the research were from my old massage school, Bodyology! It was only then that I remembered I was in fact invited to be involved, but sadly my schedule wouldn't allow it.
Professor D’Acquisto is an immunologist from the University of Roehampton and came across research which found that massage boosted the number of white blood cells in patients suffering from HIV, a disease that causes a reduction in a type of white blood cell known as T Lymphocytes.
To see if massage might have the same effect in people without serious immune conditions, they invited 7 volunteers in for a massage. Firstly they took blood samples from each participant and analysed it for the number of T Lymphocytes present. This served as a baseline reading.
In order to distinguish between the effects of simply laying down and resting, and laying down and receiving a massage they then had the participants lie down and relax for an hour, before taking another blood sample.
Finally, participants were able to enjoy an hour’s massage. Immediately after the session, a third and final blood test was taken.
In comparison to the baseline results, the results from the group after the massage showed a 70 per cent boost in white blood cells. This was also a higher reading than when the volunteers were simply relaxing.
The immune system is complex, and we don't fully understand all of the ways in which it functions, but this research is exciting in linking the ancient tradition of massage to the possibilities of improved wellbeing. T-lymphocytes perform a wide array of functions in the body involved with growth and repair, which could explain to some degree why massage has been reported to help with so many conditions throughout it's long history and place within various cultures.
Amy Moffat, Oct 2018