Massage Reduces Dancers' Stress and Helps Range of
anxiety, improves mood and increases range of motion
among dance students, according to a recent study.
Researchers at the Touch Research Institute showed
that twice-weekly massage lowered the stress hormone
cortisol, eased neck, shoulder and back pain, and
helped range of motion, including neck extension and
Thirty female dance students were randomly assigned
to a massage or relaxation therapy group. Both
groups otherwise continued the same daily dance and
Those in the massage group received 30-minute
sessions twice weekly for five weeks. The massage
was focused on the upper body and consisted of
moderate to firm pressure, stroking, stretching and
rocking. With a prone dancer, the therapist began
the session with firm strokes to stretch and warm
the neck, back and shoulders. Next, friction and
then squeezing were applied to both sides of the
spine and then along the sides of the body.
This was followed with a sequence of up-and-down and
side-to-side strokes along the collar bone and
scapula. Firm pressure was applied, moving muscles
away from vertebral column. Firm gliding motions
were made down the neck, shoulder and upper back,
finishing at the bottom of the scapula.
Continuing with the dancer lying on her side,
massage was applied with firm pressure on the
muscles along the rib cage, releasing tension before
continuing. The chest muscles were then lifted,
squeezed and stretched. The arms were circled up by
the head and behind the back and down again while
applying gentle pressure to the chest and side. The
lateral neck muscles were then pressed. Lastly, the
arm was circled in reverse, using its own weight to
stretch the middle back and chest muscles.
In the relaxation group, dancers listened via
earphones to instructions on a series of guided
muscle relaxation exercises while lying on a mat.
Sessions lasted 30 minutes and consisted of tensing
and relaxing muscles, starting with the feet and
moving up the body, ending at the face. These
sessions also occurred twice weekly for five weeks.
To assess the effects of the massage and relaxation
sessions, researchers used five measurements: a
State Anxiety Inventory (a questionnaire that
assesses anxiety levels), a Profile of Mood States
questionnaire; pre- and post-session pain scales to
measure perception of pain in the neck, shoulders
and back; pre- and post session saliva samples to
measure cortisol levels; and measurements of range
of motion, including neck extension and shoulder
Results showed that both groups had less anxiety,
better mood, and less pain in the neck, shoulder and
back. Only the massage group experienced a decrease
in cortisol and an improvement in range of motion,
including neck extension and shoulder abduction.
"Perhaps massage therapy stretched the dancers more
than relaxation therapy, thus leading to the
improved range of motion for the massage therapy
group," the study authors wrote.
The authors stated that further study should be
devoted to the effects of massage therapy for
preventing and treating dance injuries.
Research Institute. Originally reported in the
Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 1999, Vol. 3,
No. 3, pp. 108-112.
Discounts, Special Events
club member, you will receive special discount coupons, health
and research bulletins, and special event updates to our
FirstHealth team of speakers.