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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Calibrated Method of Massage Therapy Decreases Systolic Blood Pressure Concomitant With Changes in Heart Rate Variability in Male Rats.

  • Author(s): Spurgin, Kurt A
  • Kaprelian, Anthony
  • Gutierrez, Roberto
  • Jha, Vidyasagar
  • Wilson, Christopher G
  • Dobyns, Abigail
  • Xu, Karen H
  • Curras-Collazo, Margarita C
  • et al.

OBJECTIVE:The purpose of this study was to develop a method for applying calibrated manual massage pressures by using commonly available, inexpensive sphygmomanometer parts and validate the use of this approach as a quantitative method of applying massage therapy to rodents. METHODS:Massage pressures were monitored by using a modified neonatal blood pressure (BP) cuff attached to an aneroid gauge. Lightly anesthetized rats were stroked on the ventral abdomen for 5 minutes at pressures of 20 mm Hg and 40 mm Hg. Blood pressure was monitored noninvasively for 20 minutes following massage therapy at 5-minute intervals. Interexaminer reliability was assessed by applying 20 mm Hg and 40 mm Hg pressures to a digital scale in the presence or absence of the pressure gauge. RESULTS:With the use of this method, we observed good interexaminer reliability, with intraclass coefficients of 0.989 versus 0.624 in blinded controls. In Long-Evans rats, systolic BP dropped by an average of 9.86% ± 0.27% following application of 40 mm Hg massage pressure. Similar effects were seen following 20 mm Hg pressure (6.52% ± 1.7%), although latency to effect was greater than at 40 mm Hg. Sprague-Dawley rats behaved similarly to Long-Evans rats. Low-frequency/high-frequency ratio, a widely-used index of autonomic tone in cardiovascular regulation, showed a significant increase within 5 minutes after 40 mm Hg massage pressure was applied. CONCLUSIONS:The calibrated massage method was shown to be a reproducible method for applying massage pressures in rodents and lowering BP.

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