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Skin rubdown with a dry towel activates natural killer cells in bedridden old patients

Hiroshi Iwama, Yoichi Akama

Med Sci Monit 2002; 8(9): CR611-615

ID: 13271

Background: Skin rubdown using a dry towel to scrub the whole body is a traditional procedure. Because massage therapy is effective in improving cellular immunity, skin rubdown may also have the similar effects.
Material/Methods: Sixteen bedridden old patients, who had suffered a cerebral stroke, were studied. Skin rubdown for about 10 minutes was added for 10 days. Blood was collected at noon on the day before skin rubdown, 5 and 10 days after initiation and 5 days after completion, and the neutrophil count, lymphocyte count, serum gamma-globulin and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels and natural killer cell activity were measured. In 9 of these 16 patients, B, T, CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte counts were additionally measured on the same days.
Results: There were no significant changes in the time course of the lymphocyte count, gamma-globulin or CRP levels. The neutrophil count increased 10 days after initiation of the skin rubdown,
and natural killer cell activity increased 5 and 10 days after initiation, and returned to the baseline level 5 days after completion. Although there were no changes in the time course of the B, T, CD4 and CD8 lymphocyte counts, the CD4/CD8 ratio showed an increase 5 days
after initiation and completion.
Conclusions: Skin rubdown activates natural killer cells, which may be attributed to the effect of certain mediators released from the T lymphocytes and/or the stimulated effect on the sympathetic
nerves. This technique may be used to reduce a variety of complications caused by the decreased immunity observed in bedridden old patients.

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