As many people already know, performing mechanical load exercises (i.e. weightlifting and load bearing exercises such as walking and running) puts strain on our skeletal muscles which in turn induces bone growth. Both active and passive exercises will improve bone mass and decrease bone loss, and this new study performed at the Endocrine and Metabolism Unit of Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, and subsequently published in BMC: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2013), examined the effects of traditional Thai massage on bone formation in postmenopausal women.
The researchers speculated that the pressure exerted by the massage therapist on the patient may, “induce strain in the skeleton and affect bone, similar to other means of applying mechanical load”.
Forty-eight postmenopausal women participated in the research. In describing the design, the authors wrote, “Subjects in the treatment group underwent a two-hour session of Thai traditional massage twice a week for four weeks, while no intervention was given to subjects in the control group. After a two-week washout period, subjects were switched to the other arm of intervention for four weeks.”
How they applied the traditional Thai massage
A single massage practitioner performed Thai massage for two-hour sessions that involved direct pressure by the heel of outstretched hands on the subject’s body for about a one to two second duration. Not much detail was given on the amount of pressure applied by the massage therapist.
This study indicated that two treatments per week resulted in higher markers, with the biggest improvement noted in the older women with smaller body frames. For older women, concerned about osteoporosis and not doing any strength training routines, this is exciting news.
There are, of course, limitations to this research, but the findings are important, as they suggest that not only does traditional Thai massage help with stress and pain reduction, but that it may also help promote healthy bones.
If you’re interested in reading the details of the full study you can view it here.
And why not book yourself a traditional Thai massage today.