Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mary Webb, Ph.D.


Blood pressure, Body mass index, Effleurage, Randomized, Relaxation response


Significance: Complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) are widely used however the efficacy of many CAM therapies for specific diseases has yet to be verified. Massage therapy, specifically back massage, used to assist in the management of elevated blood pressure is one such unverified therapy. A pilot study completed in 2002 resulted in significant changes in blood pressure using a repeated application of the 10 minute back massage. Research Aims: This study, evolving from a psychophysiology framework, aimed to determine the long term efficacy of a back massage treatment and possible dosage needed to effectively assist in the management of elevated blood pressure. Primary Research Hypotheses: After adjusting for covariates: A. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) and or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) would decrease significantly over time using a back massage treatment in subjects with pre-hypertension or controlled hypertension.B.

There would be a significant difference in the SBP (and or DBP) changes over time using 10 applications of back massage versus five applications of back massage in the subjects with pre-hypertension and controlled hypertension.Methods: A priori power analysis determined the three groups by four time points (repeated measures) design required a sample of 45 participants. The sample of men and women, 18-75 years of age, were recruited from a university setting. Outcome Variables: Systolic Blood Pressure, Diastolic Blood Pressure Potential Covariates: Age, BMI, Medications, Years of Hypertension, Salivary cortisol, and State and Trait Personality Indicators (anger, anxiety, depression). Intervention: Group 1: Ten 10-minute back massages given three times a week for 3.5 weeks. Group 2: Five 10-minute back massages given three times a week for 1.5 weeks. Control (group 3): Ten 10-minute relaxation sessions using learned techniques for 3.5 weeks.

Findings: For participants with elevated body mass index (>̲27.85) in the 10-massage group, systolic and diastolic blood pressure changed significantly over time. The dosage analysis did not clearly reveal the direction of the trends, therefore further exploration is warranted.