In a research study recently published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, the effectiveness of traditional Thai massage was compared to the effectiveness of traditional physical therapy in regards to decreasing muscle spasticity, functional ability, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in stroke patients over the age of 50.
A group of 50 subjects who were experiencing muscle spasticity at the elbow or knee were randomly assigned to either the Thai massage (24 subjects) or physical therapy group (26 subjects). Both groups received treatment twice a week for a total of 6 weeks. Spasticity grade, functional ability, anxiety, depression, and quality of life were measured at Week 0 and Week 6.
The traditional Thai massage was performed by certified personnel for 1 hour per session. The basic massage lines and major signal points were the main massage treatment, including points in the leg, back, abdomen, arm, shoulder, and neck.
The conventional physical therapy group received a variety of motion exercises for paralyzed limbs, strengthening exercises for the sound limbs, balance exercises for sitting and standing, and ambulation training for those with the potential for walking. Sessions lasted 1 hour and were performed by a trained physical therapist.
The results at Week 6 showed similar results for both group. Both groups experienced a significant increase in functional ability, mobility, self care, and quality of life, but no significant difference in improvement was found between the groups. Both groups had a decrease in muscle spasticity (70.8% in Thai massage and 61.9% in physical therapy). In the Thai massage group alone, anxiety and depression scores were decreased.
The authors acknowledge the limited scope of the study, and suggest future research is necessary with larger sample sizes and long-term research.