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Pediatr Int. 2010 Jun;52(3):378-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-200X.2009.02964.x. Epub 2009 Sep 15.

Impact of massage therapy on motor outcomes in very low-birthweight infants: randomized controlled pilot study.

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Physiotherapy Department, Princess Margaret Hospital, Hong Kong.



The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of massage therapy on motor development, weight gain, and hospital discharge in preterm very low-birthweight (VLBW) newborns.


Twenty-four preterm VLBW newborns (<34 weeks and <1500 g) were enrolled in this randomized controlled pilot study. The intervention group (n = 12) received massage therapy starting at 34 weeks post-conceptional age (15 min daily, 5 days/week for 4 weeks). The infants in the sham treatment group (n = 12) received similar duration of light still touch. Test of Infant Motor Performance (TIMP) score gain, weight gain, and post-conceptional age at discharge were compared between the two groups after intervention using Mann-Whitney U-test.


No significant between-group difference in TIMP score gain and weight gain was identified when all subjects were analyzed. In subgroup analysis, among those with below-average pre-treatment TIMP score (<35), the intervention group (n = 6) achieved significantly higher TIMP score gain (P = 0.043) and earlier hospital discharge (P = 0.045) than the sham treatment group (n = 5). These same infants, however, also had significantly shorter duration of total parenteral nutrition than their counterparts in the sham treatment group (P = 0.044).


Massage therapy might be a viable intervention to promote motor outcomes in a subgroup of VLBW newborns with poor motor performance. A larger randomized controlled trial is required to further explore the effects of massage therapy in this high-risk group.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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