MassageSickle Cell Disease

Massage in children with sickle cell disease

 Researchers from Ohio and Philadelphia come to a surprising finding.

First, the details.

  • 34 children and adolescents, and their parents were assigned to massage therapy or a control group.
  • Parents were trained in massage in their homes once a week for 4 weeks, with instructions to provide nightly massages.
  • Families in the control group were visited weekly by a research assistant.
  • Depression and anxiety, functional status, pain intensity, medication use, and use of healthcare services were monitored in all participants.

And, the results.

  • Parents in the massage therapy group had higher levels of depression and anxiety after the study.
  • But their kids had better functional status, and less depression, anxiety, and pain.
  • Healthcare service use didn’t change.

The bottom line?
Why did the parents feel more depressed? Is it possible that the closer contact with their children raised issues of guilt or shame?

A survey of female caregivers of children with sickle cell disease in the Netherlands found, “Compared to the control group of the same socio-economic status, the quality of life of caregivers of patients with sickle cell disease was significantly lower on the subscales depressive moods, daily activities, and vitality.”

Dr. Miriam Bloom, in her book, Sickle Cell Disease says it’s “not the fault of the child, of the parents, or of the parents’ parents; it is an accident of nature that survived and persists because… the sickle cell gene did something good for people that lived in another place at another time.”

Parents who need help coping with their child’s condition should ask about programs in their community where they can get counseling.

3/18/09 21:12 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.