immune function. “Massage therapy increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that work to combat viruses. According to research from Cedars-Sinai, participants in a Swedish massage group experienced significant changes in lymphocytes, which play a large role in defending the body from disease. A lymphocyte is one of the three sub-types of white blood cells in the immune system.”
A study was conducted in southwestern Sweden on 30 women who were undergoing radiation therapy to treat breast cancer. This study found that “massage decreased the deterioration of NK cell activity occurring during radiation therapy”.
A lengthy study was published in the Oncology Nursing Forum in 2008. It found that "[m]ost of the studies investigating the effects of massage therapy on the immune system have centered on natural killer (NK) cell activity. Healthy adults under acute stress have shown enhanced NK cell activity and increased white blood cell counts following massage (Zeitlin, Keller, Shiflett, Schleifer, & Bartlett, 2000). Additionally, adult men and adolescents infected with HIV have shown significantly increased NK cell number, NK cell cytotoxicity, and CD56+CD3-lymphocytes following massage (Diego et al., 2001; Ironson et al., 1996). In two studies examining massage therapy in women with breast cancer (Hernandez-Reif et al., 2004, 2005), long-term massage effects included significant increases in NK and lymphocyte cell numbers and dopamine and serotonin levels." The full version of this published article can be found below this section.