Each of six brief sessions of aromatherapy massage resulted in a statistically significant reduction in both heart rate and blood pressure among nursing staff at a university hospital surgical center.

The study, “Effectiveness of aromatherapy massage on the stress of the surgical center nursing team: a pilot study,” involved 38 nurses and nurse technicians at a surgical center where more than 8,500 procedures are performed each year. The mean age of the subjects was 39.5 years, and the majority were females.

For the study, these subjects were randomly assigned to either the control group or the intervention group.  Subjects in the control group received no intervention until after the study had ended. Subjects in the intervention group received six 10-to-15-minute sessions of aromatherapy massage, with an average of about 42 hours between each session.

For the aromatherapy massage, participants were seated in an armchair in a rest area at the surgical center. The aromatherapy consisted of lavender and geranium essential oils diluted in a neutral cream at a concentration of one percent each. This cream was used as the lubricant for the massage.

“The massage technique applied was effleurage (or smoothing), in the posterior thoracic and cervical region,” state the study’s authors. “This technique was selected for not exerting pressure on the body area that could stimulate the meridian points.”

The main outcome measures in this study were heart rate and blood pressure, and these were measured before and after each aromatherapy massage. In addition, the Work Stress Scale and List of Stress Symptoms were completed at baseline and again after the intervention period had come to an end.

Results of the research showed a statistically significant reduction in both heart rate and blood pressure after each session of aromatherapy massage.

Scores on the Work Stress Scale and List of Stress Symptoms improved among subjects in the intervention group, especially in comparison to those in the control group, but these improvements were not statistically significant.

Authors: Juliana Montibeler, Thiago da Silva Domingos, Eliana Mara Braga, Juliana Rizzo Gnatta, Leonice Fumiko Sato Kurebayashi and Alberto Keidi Kurebayashi.

Sources: Department of Nursing, Paulista State University, Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil;  University Hospital, University of São Paulo, Brazil; and Institute of Integrated and Oriental Therapy, São Paulo, Brazil. Originally published online in August 2018 in the Journal of School of Nursing at University of São Paulo.