Medicine News

Investigating the potential of Chinese head massage techniques in regulating the autonomic nervous system

Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada studied the effects of Chinese head massage on the cardiac autonomous nervous system by measuring parameters for heart rate variability (HRV). The study was held at the Children’s and Women’s Health Centre of British Columbia and published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 

  • The study had 10 healthy participants enrolled: six men and four women.
  • They were divided into two categories: the intervention group and the control group.
  • The intervention group received head massage therapy (HMT) for 10 minutes in a seated position while the control group simply sat on the same chair with their eyes closed (no HMT).
  • The researchers measured parameters for HRV in the course of the session. These included total power (TP), high frequency (HF) – HF as a normalized, pre-ejection period – and heart rate (HR).
  • The intervention group showed an increase in TP, which lasted for 20 minutes after the massage has ended. The peak came 10 minutes after HMT (relative change from baseline, 66 percent for HMT versus -6.6 percent for no HMT).
  • HF measurements also showed a significant difference between HMT and no HMT: 59.4 percent for HMT versus four percent for no HMT.
  • In addition, the HMT group showed a notable decrease in HR — more than three-fold compared with the no HMT group.

The researchers concluded that head massage therapy has potential in modulating the cardiac autonomous system. This was evident in the increase in total variability and a shift toward higher parasympathetic nervous system activity.

Journal Reference:

Fazeli MS, Pourrahmat M-M, Liu M, Guan L, Collet J-P. THE EFFECT OF HEAD MASSAGE ON THE REGULATION OF THE CARDIAC AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: A PILOT RANDOMIZED CROSSOVER TRIAL. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 15 January 2016;22(1):75–80. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2015.0141

comments powered by Disqus