An evening back massage may help relieve the pain and anxiety experienced by patients after major surgery, according to study results reported in the Archives of Surgery.
Dr Daniel B. Hinshaw and colleagues examined the short-term effect of massage among patients undergoing chest or abdominal surgery at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Indianapolis, Indiana.
How the study was done
Patients were randomly assigned to routine care, individualised emotional support (without massage) for 20 minutes, or to a 20-minute back massage by a massage therapist.
The two interventions were conducted in the evening, for up to five days after surgery.
Subjects rated pain intensity, the accompanying emotions ("pain unpleasantness"), and anxiety using standard tests.
Roughly 200 patients were in each group and nearly all of the subjects were male.
What the study revealed
Subjects in the massage group reported greater daily improvement in scores for pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, and anxiety compared with the other two groups.
"These significant reductions were most pronounced on the first postoperative day," the authors report.
Averaged over four days, the scores for pain intensity and pain unpleasantness also improved more quickly in the massage group.
Patients who received individualised emotional support reported no differences in any of the pain outcomes than did subjects who received routine care.
With the recent emphasis on improving pain outcomes and recognition of the potential hazards associated with pain medications, the authors suggest that "it is time to reintegrate the use of effective and less dangerous approaches to relieve patient distress." – (Reuters Health)
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