A comparative study of Thai massage and Swedish massage relative to physiological and psychological measures

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Many cultures have a massage or touch-based therapy that has been influenced by the development of culture over time. The origins of Thai massage (TM) can be traced to oriental medicine and yoga. Swedish massage (SM), the most popular type of massage practiced in the US, is based on anatomy learned from dissection. To date TM has been largely unexplored. The purpose of this study was to compare and contrast a single general massage treatment, using one of two different styles of massage, on physiological and psychological outcomes. Fifty-three participants enrolled in the study and were randomly assigned to receive one TM or SM treatment. Dependent variables included blood pressure, heart rate, range-of-motion, perceived anxiety, and mood. Physiological assessments (blood pressure, heart rate, range of motion) were conducted immediately before (T1) and after the massage (T2). Psychological assessments (anxiety and mood) were conducted at T1, T2, and at 48-h follow-up (T3). A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed overall significant differences for the massage. However, there were no differences between the treatment groups. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) for individual dependent variables found significant improvement between T1 and T2 in resting heart rate, ankle plantar flexion, ankle dorsiflexion, and shoulder abduction/rotation. Significant overall improvement was noted in mood at T2, and in tension-anxiety as well as confusion-bewilderment at T2 and T3 compared to T1. The findings suggest that a single treatment of TM is as effective as SM on general physiological and psychological outcomes. © 2005.

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Cowen, V. S., Burkett, L., Bredimus, J., Evans, D. R., Lamey, S., Neuhauser, T., & Shojaee, L. (2006). A comparative study of Thai massage and Swedish massage relative to physiological and psychological measures. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 10(4), 266–275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2005.08.006

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