Massage Benefits for HIV-Positive Children
By Alex A. Kecskes
A strong immune system allows the body to shore up its disease-fighting arsenal. In contrast, a weakened immune system is an open invitation for disease. For HIV patients, the immune system must be continuously built up to prevent the patient from succumbing to the disease. Research has proven the benefits of massage therapy among patients who were HIV positive. Massage boosts immune system function by reducing anxiety and stress, increasing white blood cell counts and decreasing the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which has been noted to destroy immune cells. Massage has also been shown to activate the body's natural killer cells.
Although massage therapy, consisting of rubbing, kneading, squeezing and stretching of muscles, has not been regularly prescribed for HIV or AIDS, recent research suggest that properly administered massage therapy may help preserve the immune systems of HIV-positive children who lack access to antiretroviral medication.
In evaluating massage therapy as beneficial for those suffering from HIV**, the factors that appeared to strengthen the immune system were pressure strokes, dosage and duration of massage therapy. The effect on the immune system was even more pronounced when pressure was applied with multiple-dose massages of longer duration. A full-body stress management approach was most beneficial. The most effective techniques were twice weekly, one-hour sessions of acupressure, trigger-point therapy and deep strokes extended over several months for best immune-enhancing results.
If a child is HIV-positive, first consult a primary care physician before attempting massage therapy. The doctor may recommend the appropriate treatment. If massage is suggested, find a licensed massage therapist who is nationally certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (www.ncbtmb.org) or the American Massage Therapy Association (www.amtamassage.org). Note: Medicare and most private insurance do not cover massage.