Subjects and interventions: Sixty (60) children with asthma were divided randomly into two equal groups: massage therapy group and control group. Subjects in the massage therapy group received a 20-minute massage therapy by their parents at home before bedtime every night for 5 weeks in addition to the standard asthma treatment. The control group received the standard asthma treatment alone for 5 weeks.
Outcome measures: Spirometry was performed for all children on the first and last days of the study. Forced expiratory flow in first second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), FEV1/FVC and peak expiratory flow (PEF) were recorded.
Results: At the end of the study, mean FEV1 of the massage therapy group was significantly higher than controls (2.3±0.8 L versus 1.9±0.9 L, p=0.04). There was no significant difference in FVC (2.5±0.8 L versus 2.7±0.7 L, p=0.43). However, FEV1/FVC ratio showed a significant improvement in the massage therapy group (92.3±21.5 versus 69.5±17, p<0.01). PEF difference was not significant (263.5±39.6 L/minute versus 245.9±32 L/minute, p=0.06).
Conclusions: A beneficial role for massage therapy in pediatric asthma is suggested. It improved the key pulmonary functions of the children, namely, FEV1 and FEV1/FVC ratio. However, further research on a larger scale is warranted.