To determine if massage therapy increased serum insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in preterm neonates.
Forty-two preterm neonates who averaged 34.6 weeks (M = 29.5 wk gestational age; M birth weight = 1237 g) and were in the “grower” (step-down) nursery were randomly assigned to a massage therapy group (body stroking and passive limb movements for three, 15-minute periods per day for 5 days) or a control group that received the standard nursery care without massage therapy. On Days 1 and 5, the serum collected by clinical heelsticks was also assayed for insulin and IGF-1, and weight gain and kilocalories consumed were recorded daily.
Despite similar formula intake, the massaged preterm neonates showed greater increases during the 5-day period in (1) weight gain; (2) serum levels of insulin; and (3) IGF-1. Increased weight gain was significantly correlated with insulin and IGF-1.
Previous data suggested that preterm infant weight gain following massage therapy related to increased vagal activity, which suggests decreased stress and gastric motility, which may contribute to more efficient food absorption. The data from this study suggest for the first time that weight gain was also related to increased serum insulin and IGF-1 levels following massage therapy.
Preterm infants who received massage therapy not only showed greater weight gain but also a greater increase in serum insulin and IGF-1 levels, suggesting that massage therapy might be prescribed for all growing neonates.