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Impact of Massage Therapy on Health Outcomes Among Orphaned Infants in Ecuador: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial

Jump, Vonda K. PhD; Fargo, Jamison D. PhD; Akers, James F. PhD


Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among infants and young children in the developing world. This project investigated whether therapeutic infant massage could reduce diarrheal episodes and decrease overall illness of infants. Infants living in 2 orphanages in Quito, Ecuador, were matched by age and randomly assigned to an experimental or a control condition. The experimental group received an intervention, daily infant massage therapy by orphanage staff or volunteers, which lasted an average of 53 days, and symptoms of illness data were documented daily by volunteers in the orphanages. Results indicated that control group infants had a 50% greater risk of having diarrhea than experimental infants (rate ratio [RR] = 1.54, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.18, 2.03, P < 0.001). Control group infants were also 11% more likely than experimental infants to experience illness of any kind (RR = 1.11, 95% CI = 0.96, 1.28, P = 0.17). The implications for the use of therapeutic infant massage, a remarkably inexpensive intervention, are discussed, and the need for further research is highlighted.

Early Intervention Research Institute (Drs Vonda and James) and Department of Psychology (Dr Jamison), Utah State University, Logan.

This project was supported by a research grant from the Massage Therapy Foundation to the first author. Special thanks go to the Ecuadorian orphanage staffs, the Orphanage Support Services Organization, and other volunteers, as well as to the infants for allowing us to work with them. Thanks to Bianca Jump for teaching the first author about massage.

Corresponding author: Vonda K. Jump, PhD, Early Intervention Research Institute, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322 (e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.