Massage Briefly Eases Pain and Helps Mood for Dying Cancer Patients

Massage from a trained massage therapist gave pain relief and raised moods for dying cancer patients immediately after each treatment.  However, the effects didn’t last over time.

Researchers compared the effects of simple touch to therapeutic massage for 380 patients in a hospice program.  Randomly, some patients received up to six 30-minutes massages over a three week period.  Other patients were simply touched briefly in ten different places on their body over three minutes. 

Both groups experienced pain relief right after the massage or simple touch treatment.  However, massage was more effective in relieving pain, reducing it about an average 2 points on a 10 point scale.  Touch reduced pain an average 1 point.

Mood improved for massage patients by about one and a half points, compared to one point for simple touch.

However, questionnaires showed no sustained improvement in quality of life or the distress patients felt from their symptoms over time.  Neither group used less pain medicine.

Jean S. Kutner M.D. and her team concluded,

Massage may have immediately beneficial effects on pain and mood among patients with advanced cancer. Given the lack of sustained effects and the observed improvements in both study groups, the potential benefits of attention and simple touch should also be considered in this patient population.

Some funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

SOURCE: Kutner et al., Annals of Internal Medicine, Volume 149. Issue 6, September 16, 2008.

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