Massage therapy for essential hypertension: a systematic review
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Massage, an ancient Chinese healing art, is widely practiced for symptom relief in hypertensive patients with anxiety, depression, headache, vertigo, chronic pain in neck, shoulder and back. A large number of case series and clinical trials have been published. However, it is still unclear whether massage can be recommended as an effective therapy for essential hypertension (EH). We estimated the current clinical evidence of massage for EH. Articles published before 10 December 2013 were searched using Cochrane Library, PubMed, EMBASE, Chinese Scientific Journal Database (VIP), Chinese Biomedical Literature Database, Wanfang data and Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure. Randomized controlled trials comparing massage with any type of control intervention were included. Trials testing massage combined with antihypertensive drugs versus antihypertensive drugs were included as well. Meta-analysis was performed on the effects on blood pressure (BP). Twenty-four articles involving 1962 patients with EH were selected. Methodological quality of most trials was evaluated as generally low. Meta-analyses demonstrated that massage combined with antihypertensive drugs may be more effective than antihypertensive drugs alone in lowering both systolic BP (SBP; mean difference (MD): -6.92 (-10.05, -3.80); P<0.0001) and diastolic BP (MD: -3.63 (-6.18, -1.09); P=0.005); massage appears beneficial for reducing SBP (MD: -3.47 (-5.39, -1.56); P=0.0004) for hypertensive patients as compared with antihypertensive drugs. Safety of massage is still unclear. There is some encouraging evidence of massage for EH. However, because of poor methodological quality, the evidence remains weak. Rigorously designed trials are needed to validate the use of massage in future.
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