Massage may help ease pain and anxiety after surgery

Dec 17, 2007

A 20-minute evening back massage may help relieve pain and reduce anxiety following major surgery when given in addition to pain medications, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Many patients still experience pain following major surgery despite the availability of pain-relieving medications, according to background information in the article. Pain may be under-treated because patients fear becoming dependent on medications, are concerned about side effects, believe that they should endure pain without complaining or worry about bothering nurses. Physicians and nurses may administer ineffective doses of pain relievers because of personal biases, cultural attitudes or a lack of knowledge.

Allison R. Mitchinson, M.P.H., N.C.T.M.B., of the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor, Mich., and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 605 veterans (average age 64) undergoing major surgery (chest or abdominal operations) between 2003 and 2005. Patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups for the five days following surgery: 203 received routine care; 200 received a daily 20-minute back massage; and 202 received 20 minutes of individual attention each day from a massage therapist, but no massage.

“The purpose of this group was to assess the effect of emotional support independent of massage,” the authors write. Patients were asked daily to rate the intensity and unpleasantness of their pain, plus their level of anxiety, on scales of one to 10.

“Compared with the control group, patients in the massage group experienced short-term (preintervention vs. postintervention) decreases in pain intensity, pain unpleasantness and anxiety,” the authors write. “In addition, patients in the massage group experienced a faster rate of decrease in pain intensity and unpleasantness during the first four postoperative days compared with the control group.” There were no differences in long-term anxiety, length of hospital stay or the amount of pain-relieving medications used among the three groups.

“The effectiveness of massage in reducing both the intensity and unpleasantness of pain suggests that it may act through more than one mechanism,” the authors write. “Massage may ameliorate suffering by helping to relieve the anxiety that so effectively synergizes with pain to create distress.” It could also generate mood-boosting endorphins or create a competing sensation that blocks pain, they note.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Key element of CPR missing from guidelines

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New perspective diminishes racial bias in pain treatment

Mar 07, 2011

Years of research show black patients getting less treatment in the American health care system than their white counterparts, but a new study suggests that a quick dose of empathy helps close racial gaps in pain treatment.

For back pain, spinal manipulation holds its own

Feb 16, 2011

If you're suffering from chronic lower back pain, a new review of existing research finds that spinal manipulation − the kind of hands-on regimen that a chiropractor might perform on you − is as helpful as other ...

Recommended for you

Exploring 3-D printing to make organs for transplants

11 hours ago

Printing whole new organs for transplants sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the real-life budding technology could one day make actual kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs for patients ...

High frequency of potential entrapment gaps in hospital beds

13 hours ago

A survey of beds within a large teaching hospital in Ireland has shown than many of them did not comply with dimensional standards put in place to minimise the risk of entrapment. The report, published online in the journal ...

Key element of CPR missing from guidelines

Jul 29, 2014

Removing the head tilt/chin lift component of rescue breaths from the latest cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines could be a mistake, according to Queen's University professor Anthony Ho.

Burnout impacts transplant surgeons (w/ Video)

Jul 28, 2014

Despite saving thousands of lives yearly, nearly half of organ transplant surgeons report a low sense of personal accomplishment and 40% feel emotionally exhausted, according to a new national study on transplant surgeon ...

User comments : 0