Thursday, September 25, 2008

Massage Decreases Pain and Boosts Mood in Cancer Patients

According to a trial published in the September 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, cancer patients may experience immediate benefits from massage, including decreased pain and improved mood.

Jean S. Kutner, MD, MSPH, from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, and colleagues write, " Massage may interrupt the cycle of distress through the therapist's intention (presence, communication, and desire to produce a therapeutic response), induction of a relaxation response, increased blood and lymphatic circulation, potentiation of analgesic effects, decreased inflammation and edema, manual release of muscle spasms, increased endogenous endorphin release, and competing sensory stimuli that override pain signals."

The goal of the study was to determine if quality of life could be improved for cancer patients with massage. The Palliative Care Research Network was used for the analysis, and included 380 adult patients diagnosed with advanced cancer. Assessment end-points included the immediate change in pain, using a scale of 1-10 from the Memorial Pain Assessment Card, measured just prior to and immediately following massage intervention. Other predictors of effectiveness included change in mood, from the same assessment tool. Heart and respiratory rates were taken, and the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire was used, which also uses a scale of 1-10. A 0-4 point scale was used to measure distress, taken from the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale. The study group also analyzed the patient’s use of Morphine.

Two groups were studied – the massage group received six 30-minute massage sessions, and the control group received simple-touch sessions for 2 weeks. The patients were followed for three weeks. Both groups experienced improvement in pain and mood, but the massage group experience more significant benefit. The authors concluded, "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."

Ann Intern Med. 2008; 149:369-379.


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