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Post-Surgical Massage May Help Manage Pain and Anxiety

Researchers urge reintroduction of massage as safe and effective post-surgical intervention

TUESDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Massage may be an effective and safe adjuvant therapy for the relief of acute post-operative pain and anxiety, according to study findings published in the December issue of the Archives of Surgery.

Allison R. Mitchinson, of Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Ann Arbor, Mich., and colleagues randomly assigned 605 veterans who underwent major surgery to receive either routine care, 20 minutes of individualized attention from a massage therapist, or back massage by a massage therapist each evening for up to five days after surgery.

The researchers found that patients who received massage had faster decreases in pain intensity, pain unpleasantness and anxiety during the first four post-operative days than patients who received routine care. But they found no group differences in the rates of long-term anxiety, length of stay, opiate use or complications.

"Historically, massage was a common experience for post-surgical patients," the authors conclude. "As health care systems have become more complex and administrative demands on nursing time have increased, the tradition of nurse-administered massage has been largely lost. With the recent emphasis on assessing pain as the fifth vital sign tempered by renewed concerns for patient safety, it is time to reintegrate the use of effective and less dangerous approaches to relieve patient distress."

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