The Effects of Massage on the Physical Symptoms of Academic Stress
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
ROBINSON, J. M. (2001). The Effects of Massage on the Physical Symptoms of Academic Stress. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Effects of Massage on the Physical Symptoms of Academic Stress
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
Massage is one of the oldest medicines known to man. Stress is a major part of the academic life.This study was conducted to find any effects massage may have on academic stress symptoms of heart rate, respiration and hand temperature. Six participants were placed in a control group of a ten minute ralation break and the experiment of a ten minute massage. Before and after the control and experiment, participants were given a timed examination to create academic stress. Data showed there was a significant decrease in pulse after the massage.

The Effects of Massage on the Physical Symptoms Of Academic Stress Touch is one of the oldest known medical treatments known in the world. Touch therapy is described in the Ayer-Veda, the earliest known medical text from India (around 1800 B.C.), along with diet and exercise as primary healing practices of the time (Older, 1982). Hippocrates, in 400 B.C., described medicine as “the art of rubbing.” Older (1982) describes exotic uses of massage in contemporary cultures. He noted that in Samoa massage is used for every ailment from diarrhea to migraines using mixtures of plants, flowers from trees, roots and coconut milk. In Cuba, garlic and oil are applied to the stomach after “a meal lodged in the stomach where it causes pain and fever” (Older, 1982). Massage is by definition the systematic manipulation of soft tissues of the body to enhance health and healing. Massage may be used to affect body structures. Relaxing specific muscles through rubbing can increase the range of motion at a joint. It can also be used to affect more general body processes such as general relaxation and growth and development of infants (Tappan & Benjamin, 1998). Schanberg and Field (1987) found a decrease in a noted growth hormone when rat pups were removed from their mothers.The decrease was observed in all body organs including the heart, liver and brain. The growth hormone returned to normal levels when the rat pups were stimulated using a technique of using a wet paintbrush simulating the licking behavior of the mother. A study done by Field (1986) found preterm infants gained 47% more weight and went home an average of six days sooner when given 15 minutes massages three times a day for ten days while still in the incubator than the infants who did not receive a massage while still in the incubator. In another study headed by Field (1992), hospitalized depressed children and adolescents who received massages were reported as less depressed and less anxious as well as having lower levels of stress hormones in urine and saliva samples than that of those children who watched relaxing videotapes. In addition to having lower hormone stress levels, the children were also taped while sleeping and those who had massages had better sleeping patterns than the children who watched the relaxing video. In the above studies, the main component each of the subjects faced being animal or human was some component of stress. Hans Selye (1956), the first major stress researcher, defined stress as essentially the rate of wear and tear on the body. Stress in any change that a person must adapt to. The changes can be from the extreme negative of physical danger to the positive of achieving a long desired goal. Selye found that any problem, real or imagined, results in the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain) to send an alarm to the hypothalamus (the main switch for stress response). The hypothalamus then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to make changes in the body. Heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension and blood pressure all increase. Hands and feet get cold as blood is directed away from extremities and digestive system. Pupils dilate to sharpen vision and hearing also becomes more acute. At one time in the lives of the human race, these changes were an alarm system that prepared our body stay and fight or to flee from the stressful situation. This alarm system was the difference of eating or being the eaten. Today, there is no longer the danger of being the eaten but stressful situations still play a large part of society, especially those in an academic setting. The academic setting is facing a major trend of high levels of student stress. The changes affecting students are being away from parents and home for the first time, handling financial matters and competition for grades (Fisher 1994). In the academic setting, stress impacts performance as well as attention. Errors, lack of concentration, and ‘drifting’ are all associated with negative stress. A study done by Misra and McKean (2000) found females experience more self-imposed academic stress and also suffer from more physical symptoms than males do. However, females showed more effective time management skills thus reducing stress levels. This study also finds a positive benefit of leisure activities by reducing academic stress in college students. Field and Ironsen (1996) investigated the effect of massage on alertness, measured by EEG and speed and precision of math computation. This study showed the massage group had increased speed and accuracy on the math computation while the control group or the subjects who did not receive the massage did not show improvement on speed or accuracy. The purpose of this study is to find any differences in the physical stress symptoms, hand temperature, heart rate and blood pressure after receiving a massage.


Data for this study was collected from 6 participants of various ages and grade levels enrolled in CED 178 Stress Management class at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Two 17-question tests were given to create the situation of academic stress (See Appendix). Hand thermometers and a watch with a second hand were used to collect and record the physical stress symptoms. The participants lied on massage tables.Physical therapy students used massage lotion while giving the massages.

The experiment was conducted in two sessions, each session on a different day. The participants met in the physical therapy laboratory. The first session acted as the control group. The group was given a timed examination to create a stressful situation. Half of the group received test A, the other half-received test B. After the test, the researcher took and recorded hand temperature, respiration and heart rate. The participants lied on the table for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, hand temperature, respiration and heart rate was again taken and recorded. The next session of the experiment was conducted two days later. The same participants met again in the physical therapy laboratory and were given the timed tests. This session, again half of the students will have test A and the other test B. The researcher took and recorded the same as above mentioned physical stress symptoms. At this session, senior physical therapy students gave a 15-minute massage treatment to each participant. After the treatment, physical stress symptoms were taken and recorded.

A paired samples t test was calculated to compare the mean change in heart rate without the massage to the mean change in heart rate with the massage. The mean change in heart rate without the massage was 20.33(sd = 28.71) and the mean change in heart rate with the massage was .667 (sd = 20.06). A significant decrease in heart rate with the massage was found (t (5)=1.01,p>.05).A paired samples t test was calculated to compare the mean change in hand temperature without the massage to the mean change in hand temperature with the massage. The mean change in hand temperature without the massage was 1.00 (sd = 5.87) and the mean change in hand temperature with the massage 2.17 (sd = 3.71). No significant change in the hand temperature with or without the massage was found (t (5)=3.01,p>.05).A paired samples t test was calculated to compare the mean change in respiration without a massage to the mean change in respiration with a massage. The mean change in respiration without a massage was 5.00(sd = 18.71) and the mean change in respiration with the massage was 23.33 (sd =40.33). No significant change in respiration with or without massage was found (t (5)=1.01),p > .05).

The study found that massage did decrease heart rate by 19 seconds after receiving the massage but had no effect in changing respiration or hand temperature, thus the hypothesis was supported in the fact that massage does have an effect on the physical symptoms of academic stress. The data from this study also supports research done by Field (1992) where massage was found to lower anxiety and stress hormones. Field and Ironsen (1996) found that massage also increased alertness. This indicates that massage has a positive impact on the negative stress that the academic life creates. Significant results with the variables of hand temperature and respiration could be found by increasing the length of the study. Conducting the study over a period of several weeks would give more data and a better indication of how massages effects the student’s daily life and academic stress levels.There was no control for the participants ages or sex. Misra and McKean (2000) found that females suffered more from academic stress than males but handled the stress better through the use of time management skills. Fisher (1994) states that younger students face more stress because of being away from and handling financial matters for the first time. New research could compare how massage influences the stress levels of male and female students of different age groups.

Field, T. M. (1998) Touch Therapies. In Hoffman, R.R., Sherrick, M.F. (Eds.), Viewing psychology as a whole: the integrative science of William N. Dember. (pp.603-624). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.Field, T. Scafidi, F. & Schanberg, S. (1987) Massage of preterm newborns to improve growth and development. Pediatric Nursing, 13,385-387.Field, T., Morrow, C. (1992) Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 124-131.Field, T.M., Ironsen, G. (1996). Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG patterns of alertness and math computations. International Journal of Neuroscience,86, 197-206Fisher, S. (1995). Stress in academic life: the mental assembly line. Bristol: The Open University.Misra, R.,McKean, M. (2000). College student’s academic stress and its relation to their anxiety, time management and leisure satisfaction. American Journal of Health Studies, 16, 42-52.Older, J. (1982). Touch is Healing. New York: Stein and Day.Schanberg, S., Field, T. (1987) Sensory deprivation stress and the supplemental stimulation in the rat pup and preterm neonate. Child Development, 58,1431-1447.Tappan, F., Benjamin, P. (1998). Tappan’s Handbook of Healing Massage Techniques: Classic, Holistic and Emerging Methods. Stamford: Appleton and Lange.

Appendix ATEST A                                        Age___ SEX___Please answer the following questions.  You have 6 minutes to complete this exam.  

1. To avoid a penalty _____ important to pay taxes on time.a. its b. it’s c. its’ 2. Are you aware of the ____ of combining drugs? a. affects b. effects

3. __________ are going on a field trip. a.Him and I b. He and I c. Him and me

4. She cried for two days because her dog ___________.a. have died b. has died c. had died

5. The unruly students were sent to the office to see the School _____________. a. principal b. principle Show all mathematical work

6. Write the given quadratic equation in standard form inOrder to determine the value of b: 6x(x-2)+4=-3(5-x)a. b=9 b. b=19 c. b=15 d. b=-15 e. none of the above

7. Simplify: 6-3{5-x(y+3)-7(1-xy}

8. Solve 24-(-3y)= -16-(-4)

9. Factor Completely r-rb-s+b

10. Solve (x-3)(x-4)=4-x

11. That is the _______ movie I’ve ever seen.a. worse b. worst c.worest d. most worst

a. The athelete, exhausted from a long race, slept really ________ last night. a. good b. well

12. The possum, as well as the raccoons_______ b. are

13. Neither the majorettes nor the drum major ________ the routine. a. want b. wants

14. The players were at fault for the fighting, but the officials handled the situation _________. a. bad b. badly

15. I ______ to bed two hours before it started raininga. had went b. went c. gone Show all work

16. The daily high temperature one winter week was –6, 3, 18 and 15 degrees Monday through Thursday respectively. What must Friday’s temperature be to have the five-day average of at least 10 degrees?

17. A pipe is fifty-four feet long. It is to be cut into three pieces with the second twice as long as the first and the third piece three-fourths as long as the first. Find the length of each piece.

Appendix BTEST B SEX___ AGE___

Please answer the following questions. You have 6 minutes to complete this exam.

1. Joe is the student ______ lunch box was stuffed with candy. a. who’s b. whose

2. He might be helpful is only he ___ able to use a computer. a. was b. were

3. Any student who wants to succeed must develop _______ computer skills. a. his or her b. their

4. I don’t have _____more to say about it.a. nothing b. anything c. no

5. I’m not sure why you _______ doing that.a. where b. we’re c. were

show all work 6. Write the given quadratic equation in standard form in order to determine the value of c: 2x(x-5)+3=4(6-2x)

7. Simplify: 3{7-5[3-(36 / 9x2) ]}

8. Solve 13-(-3x)= -12-(-4)

9. Factor Completely ax-ac-x=c

10. Solve 1.6(2.4-y)-3.34=y-6

12. Each horse in the race had ______ colors.a. their b.there c.its’s

13. In her column, the reviewer wrote the ballet dancers ____a wonderful performance.a. had given b. had gave c. gave

14. ________ impressive to see a grizzly bear in the wild.a. Its’ b. Its c. It’s

15. We chose the ___ of the two remaining videos in the rental store for the children’s party.a. better b. best

Show all your work

16. A cord is 100 feet long. It is to be cut into four pieces with the first and the second piece the same length, the third piece is half as long as the first, and the fourth two feet longer than the first. Find the length of each piece?

17. One week Becca ran 2.3, 1.9, 2.9 and 2.8 miles respectively on Monday through Thursday. How fardid she have to run on Friday to have a five-day average of at least 3 miles per day?

Submitted 11/28/2001 11:30:39 AM
Last Edited 11/29/2001 10:53:00 AM
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