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Patients who received a 10-minute hand massage before undergoing surgery experienced significantly less preoperative anxiety compared to patients who did not receive hand massage, according to recent research.

The Study

The study, “The Effect of Hand Massage on Preoperative Anxiety in Ambulatory Surgery Patients,” involved 86 participants who were undergoing surgery. Most of these subjects were women and were undergoing colonoscopy.

The researchers assigned these subjects to either the intervention group, which received hand massage, or the control group, which received standard care. The average age of subjects in the hand-massage group was 45 years, while the average age of subjects in the control group was 41 years.

The main outcome measure for this study was preoperative anxiety. In order to measure each patient’s level of preoperative anxiety, the researchers employed a visual analog scale for anxiety. This was a vertical 10-centimeter line, where one end of the line represented “not nervous at all,” and the other end represented “the most nervous I have ever been.”

Once each patient changed into a hospital gown and waited in the preoperative area, a nurse presented that patient with the visual analog scale for anxiety and instructed the subject to draw a horizontal line at the “point on the line that best describes how you are feeling right now.”

Next, for subjects in the intervention group, a 10-minute hand massage was performed. Three nurses were trained to perform the same hand-massage routine, spending five minutes on each hand. Following the hand massage, the nurse inserted the IV and turned down the lights.


Participants in the control group also were presented with the visual analog scale for anxiety when waiting in the preoperative area and after changing into a hospital gown. After the patient had marked his or her level of anxiety on the scale, the IV was inserted and the lights were dimmed.

All subjects in the study were once again asked to mark the point on the visual analog scale that “best describes how you are feeling right now” immediately before being transported to the operating room.

Results of the research revealed patients in the hand-massage group reported significantly lower levels of preoperative anxiety after they received the hand massage, compared to their scores before the intervention took place. Following the intervention, patients in the hand-massage group also showed significantly lower levels of preoperative anxiety compared to the control group.

“Our findings suggest that preoperative hand massage has a significant effect on patient-reported anxiety in the ambulatory surgical setting,” state the study’s authors.


Authors: Leanne R. Brand, Donna J. Munroe and Julie Gavin

Sources: Centers of Digestive Health and Pain Clinic, Rush-Copley Medical Center, Aurora, Illinois; School of Nursing and Health Studies, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. Originally published in June 2013 in the AORN Journal, 97(6), 708-717.