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J Clin Psychiatry. 2016 Jul;77(7):e883-91. doi: 10.4088/JCP.15m10151.

Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Proof-of-Concept, Randomized Controlled Study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, 2nd Fl, 12 Executive Park Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30329.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Atlanta School of Massage, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a prevalent and costly disorder for which many patients may prefer nontraditional treatment. A proof-of-concept study of was conducted to evaluate the acute effects of Swedish massage therapy (SMT) as a monotherapy for the treatment of subjects with GAD.


A randomized, single-masked, clinical trial was conducted between March 2012 and May 2013 at the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program of Emory University. Forty-seven currently untreated subjects with a DSM-IV diagnosis of GAD were randomly assigned to twice-weekly SMT versus a light touch control condition for 6 weeks. The primary outcome measure was reduction in Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS) scores after 6 weeks of treatment for SMT versus light touch, as determined by mixed model repeated-measures analysis of 40 evaluable subjects.


Mean HARS baseline scores were 20.05 (SD = 3.34) for SMT and 19.58 (SD = 4.90) for light touch. At week 6, the difference in mean (standard error of the mean [SEM]) HARS score reduction was 3.26 points (SMT: -11.67 [1.09]; light touch: -8.41 [1.01]; t₁₀₆ = -2.19; P = .030; effect size = -0.69). Treatment group differences were significant (P < .05) starting at the end of week 3.


This first monotherapy trial suggests that a complementary and alternative manual therapy, SMT, is an effective acute treatment for GAD.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: identifier: NCT01337713.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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