To complement the Research Reports in the November 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.

massage benefits surgery patients

Two 20-minute sessions of Swedish massage on postoperative days two and three increased relaxation and decreased pain, anxiety and tension among colorectal surgery patients, according to recent research.

The study, “Effect of massage therapy on pain, anxiety, relaxation and tension after colorectal surgery: a randomized study,” involved 127 patients undergoing abdominal colorectal surgery. Patients were excluded from the study if they had contraindications such as new cellulitis, deep vein thrombosis, active skin infections, systemic infections, lymphoma, or uncontrolled hypotension or hypertension.


The Sessions

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a 20-minute massage or a social visit and relaxation session on the second and third days following the operation. For patients in the massage group, the two sessions consisted of an assessment and positioning period of one to five minutes, followed by the application of Swedish massage techniques for 20 minutes. According to the researchers, the massage focused on the areas of primary concern as pointed out by each patient. To end each session, the patients were instructed to relax for 20 minutes with a relaxation channel on TV, soft music or quiet time plus dim lighting.

For patients in the control group, the two sessions consisted of a social visit and relaxation time but no massage. These sessions began with a calm, positive, low-stress conversation between the massage therapist and the patients for a total of 20 minutes. The patients were then instructed to relax for 20 minutes with a relaxation channel on TV, soft music or quiet time plus dim lighting.


Massage Benefits for Postoperative Patients

The main outcome measures for this study were pain, tension, anxiety, relaxation and satisfaction with care, which were evaluated before and after each intervention session. The patients used numeric rating scales to rate each of these factors before and after the sessions on postoperative days two and three. The numeric rating scales ranged from zero to 10, with zero representing “none” and 10 representing “most.”

Results of the research revealed patients in the massage group had significantly less pain, anxiety and tension, as well as a significant improvement in relaxation, after the massage as compared to before the massage on both day two and three following the operation. Among patients in the control group, the data showed significant improvements in tension and relaxation, but the degree of change was smaller than what was observed among patients in the massage group.

“This study showed that patients who underwent colorectal surgery derived significant benefit from postoperative massage therapy,” stated the study’s authors, “including improvement in pain, anxiety, tension and overall relaxation.”


About the Study

Authors: Nikol E. Dreyer, Susanne M. Cutshall, Marianne Huebner, Diane M. Foss, Jenna K. Lovely, Brent A. Bauer and Robert R. Cima.

Sources: Division of General Internal Medicine, Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, Department of Surgery, and Pharmacy Services at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. Originally published in August 2015 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 21(3), 154-159.


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