A Series of Case Reports Regarding the Use of Massage Therapy to Improve Sleep Quality in Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Bryn Sumpton, BScN Sutherland-Chan Clinic Inc
  • Amanda Baskwill, PhD, MSc, BEd, RMT Humber College
Keywords: massage therapy, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, sleep, sleep quality, symptom management, case study


Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common mental health diagnosis in Canada with prevalence estimated at about 2.4% in the general population. Previous studies have suggested massage therapy may be able to reduce the symptoms of PTSD. One of the symptoms commonly experienced is difficulty falling or staying asleep. No previously published massage therapy research has specifically assessed sleep symptoms of PTSD.

Objectives: The research question was, “For individuals who have PTSD as a result of experiencing traumatic events, does MT have an effect on sleep quality?”
Methods: A prospective series of case reports describing 10-week MT treatment plans provided by Registered Massage Therapists at Sutherland-Chan Clinic’s Belleville location. Three individuals with PTSD were recruited using promotional posters in the community. Treatment focused on improving sleep quality and followed a pragmatic treatment protocol using light to moderate pressure. Out-comes were measured using a sleep diary, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and the Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire.

Results: Data collected at baseline and throughout the series showed inconsistent improvement and worsening of symptoms amongst participants. Treatment was well tolerated and attended. No harmful incidents were noted.

Conclusion: For these participants, MT did not predictably impact sleep quality. It is possible, as the underlying cause of poor sleep quality was unlikely resolved, the participants did not have a significant change in their sleep quality. This differs from findings of previous studies in which MT improved sleep for patients with poor sleep quality due to exposure to traumatic events. There is need for further understanding of how MT affects sleep. 

Author Biography

Amanda Baskwill, PhD, MSc, BEd, RMT, Humber College

I began practicing in August 2003 as a registered massage therapist in Ontario. I became actively involved in research in September 2003. I have been involved in both for almost 10 years. I have a diploma in massage therapy from Centennial College (Ontario, Canada). I have also completed by Bachelors in Education (Adult Education) from Brock University. I am currenlty enrolled in a Masters of Science (Health Research Methodology) at McMaster University. I have had the opportunity to review 2 manuscripts through the IJTMB. I have also been a reviewer for the former Holistic Health Research Foundation on the Massage Therapy Review Committee. I have published four (4) peer reviewed papers and have two in press. I have also contributed two book chapters. Regarding education: As mentioned above I have completed a BEd in Adult Education and have worked in massage therapy education for 8 years. I have held a faculty position at Humber College for 3 years, contract positions previous to that, and am currently the Program Coordinator. Regarding case studies: I have been actively invoved with Trish Dryden, MEd, RMT, to present the concept of case studies to massage therapists (Massage Therapy Foundation Conference, 2006). I have also been instrumental in including case study methodology in the massage therapy curriculum at Humber College. This includes facilitating the creation, implementation and communication of student case studies.

How to Cite
Sumpton, BScN, B., & Baskwill, PhD, MSc, BEd, RMT, A. (2019). A Series of Case Reports Regarding the Use of Massage Therapy to Improve Sleep Quality in Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, & Practice, 12(4), 3-9. https://doi.org/10.3822/ijtmb.v12i4.381