E S E A R C H
Reduces Cancer Patients' Pain, Anxiety
A seminal study of massage
on cancer patients has shown that the intervention reduces the level
of pain and anxiety these patients experience during treatment for
The study, conducted over four years
at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, sought empirical
evidence for the efficacy of massage on cancer patients experiencing
pain in the course of treatment.
"The research on the use of massage
with cancer patients has been minim[al] because massage therapy
schools teach their students that massage is contraindicated with
cancer patients," reported Pauline King, a mental health clinical
nurse at the hospital, who led the study.
"We are always probing, sticking
and doing other invasive treatments with cancer patients who are
often touch deprived," King continued. "It was felt strongly
that the patient needed caring touch as an antidote to the invasive
The study, which concluded in late 1999,
was funded by a $10,000 grant from the AMTA Foundation. Its results
have been widely reported by national media.
For the study, 52 cancer patients receiving
treatment at the hospital, which is affiliated with Ohio State University,
were randomly placed into either an experimental group or a control
On the first day of the two-day study
patients in both groups had a volunteer simply sit with them for
15 minutes, but had no physical contact. On the second day patients
in the experimental group received petrissage on the hands, feet,
shoulders and back of the neck for 15 minutes. Patients in the control
group again sat with a volunteer for 15 minutes, but had no physical
Pain and anxiety levels were measured
on both days before the intervention, directly following, and again
30 minutes later. Pain levels were measured by a Visual Analogue
Scale in which patients rated the severity of their pain on a scale
from 0-10, with 0 equaling no pain and 10 equaling the worst pain
possible. Anxiety, which was defined as "tension, apprehension,
nervousness and worry," was measured using the Spilberger STAIT-TRAIT
Anxiety Inventory, by which patients rated their own anxiety levels.
Data analysis showed the massage had
a statistically relevant impact on pain and anxiety levels of patients
in the experimental group compared to those in the control group.
Overall, patients who received massage showed a .9 difference (drop)
in pain level, versus no change in pain level for those in the control
"This study is a seminal study that
produced empirical evidence on the efficacy of massage on cancer
pain and anxiety," the report concluded. "More hard data
studies are needed in order to bring massage in the medical systems
where it is most needed."
An addendum to the study findings was
the positive feedback the researchers received from the hospital's
medical staff, in regard to the massage protocol. "Even before
the study was completed, doctors and nurses were consulting the
primary investigator to give their patients a massage," King
reported. "The study raised the consciousness of the medical
practitioners, which was another very positive outcome of this study."
- Source: Pauline King, Ohio
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