Massage may help agitated Alzheimer's dementia patients

Massage may help agitation and depression among dementia patients, according to a review in the Cochrane Library.

In two studies, hand massage and gentle touching during conversation helped ease agitation and restore appetite in dementia patients over short periods of about an hour. However, the overall evidence was insufficient to draw any definitive conclusions about the efficacy of massage as an alternative or complementary therapy to help patients suffering from dementia.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

The Cochrane reviewers could only find two small studies, involving a total of 110 participants, of high enough quality to include in the review. Although the effect on behavior in the two studies was short-lived, some researchers and caregivers suggest that massage might also improve memory and cognition in those with dementia.

Viggo Hansen N, Jorgensen T, Ortenblad L. Massage and touch for dementia The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 4.

The Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit, independent organization that produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health care interventions and promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies of interventions. Visit http://www.cochrane.org for more information.