The combination of aromatherapy, music and chair massage reduced anxiety levels of emergency department (ED) nurses in both the summer and winter seasons, according to a recent study.

In the study, “The effect of aromatherapy massage with music on the stress and anxiety levels of emergency nurses: comparison between summer and winter” a group of registered nurses working in a large hospital emergency department received aromatherapy massage combined with music over a 12-week period in both summer and winter. In the summer, 44 nurses received aromatherapy massage with music, and in the winter, 35 nurses received the treatment. The nurses participated in the study during their work time.

The 15-minute massage took place in a regular chair, focusing on the shoulders, midback, neck, scalp, forehead and temples. Subjects were fully clothed and listened to New Age music through headphones during each massage.
An aromatherapy mist was lightly sprayed above each participant’s head before the start of the session. The essential oils available for participants to choose from were rose; lavender; lime; and ocean breeze, which consisted of lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot and patchouli.

Data was collected before, during and after each 12-week massage period. Occupational stress was measured on the Perceived Occupational Stress Scale (POSS). The POSS consisted of a 47-item questionnaire, which assessed participants’ perceived job pressure, rewards of the job and general satisfaction with the job, along with measuring for a Type A personality. Anxiety was measured using the Faces Anxiety Scale, which used five different faces to assess participants’ perceived anxiety levels.

The study also examined the participants’ workload, sick leave and patient cases in the summer and winter to determine if these factors contributed to the stress and anxiety levels.

Before the massage, 54 percent of the summer participants and 65 percent of the winter participants reported moderate to extreme anxiety. Following the massage in both summer and winter periods, 92 percent of all participants had little or no anxiety. Only 8 percent of participants in summer and winter were moderately or very anxious after massage. No summer or winter participant perceived extreme anxiety after massage.

A comparison of the average postmassage anxiety scores suggest post-massage anxiety levels were very similar in winter compared with summer, but since the pre-massage anxiety scores were higher in winter, this suggests massage had a somewhat greater effect in winter compared with summer.

Data collected from the POSS test showed participants’ occupational stress levels did not change from start to finish of the 12-week intervention in either summer or winter. The researchers also found no difference in work load, sick leave or number and type of patient cases in the summer as compared to winter.

“Massage was clearly effective in reducing anxiety levels short term during both seasons,” state the study’s authors. “High levels of anxiety and stress can be detrimental to the physical and emotional health of emergency nurses, and the provision of a support mechanism, such as onsite massage as an effective strategy, should be considered.”

Sources: School of Nursing & Midwifery, Research Centre for Practice Innovation, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia; Emergency Department and Nursing Practice Development Unit, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Queensland, Australia; Queensland Clinical Trials Centre, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.

Authors: Marie Cooke, Kerri Holzhauser, Mark Jones, Cathy Davis and Julie Finucane. Originally published in Journal of Clinical Nursing, Vol. 16 (2007).