Massage Helpful for Immediate Pain Relief in Cancer

Massage treatment in adults with advanced cancer superior to touch for immediate change in pain, mood

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Massage may offer short-term pain relief for patients with advanced cancer, according to research published in the Sept. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Jean S. Kutner, M.D., of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed data from 380 adults with stage III or IV cancer who were randomly assigned to receive six 30-minute massages or sessions of simple touch, which served as the control.

Massage was statistically superior for immediate pain relief, but the difference wasn't clinically significant. The researchers found no significant difference between the groups on sustained pain measures. Massage was also superior for immediate improvement in mood. Adverse events were infrequent and did not appear to be related to massage, contrary to common concerns about the safety of massage in cancer.

"This multisite, randomized clinical trial, which was conducted primarily in hospice, suggests that massage may be more effective than simple touch in decreasing pain and improving mood immediately after treatment sessions. Sustained benefits of massage in this study sample are less evident. Patients with advanced cancer may be touch-deprived because of social isolation or fear of causing harm. These findings support offering massage for immediate symptom relief and considering the potential therapeutic benefits of simple touch, which could be provided by family members or hospice volunteers, as an adjunct to usual care," the authors write.

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