Nurses working in an emergency environment experienced less stress and pain, along with increased work ability, among other benefits, after receiving 45-minute sessions of either massage or hypnosis, according to recent research.

The study, “Tactile massage and hypnosis as a health promotion for nurses in emergency care—a qualitative study,” involved 38 nurses working in the emergency ward of a large university hospital.

As part of a larger health-promotion project, these 38 nurses received either tactile massage or hypnosis. These interventions were scheduled during working hours and took place in an integrative-care unit close to the emergency ward. The massage or hypnosis sessions lasted 45 minutes and were provided to the nurses once a week for a maximum of eight weeks.

For those who received tactile massage, sessions were conducted in a quiet room, with the subject draped on a massage table. Each massage focused on the back, hands and feet, using a neutral vegetable oil as lubricant. According to the study’s authors, “the tactile massage was carried out with slow strokes, light pressure and circling movements, mainly done with the palm of the hand with the fingers close together.”

For those who received hypnosis, the sessions were conducted in a quiet room, with the subject seated in a comfortable chair. The process involved the use of calming and relaxing images, along with positive words, progressively deeper breathing techniques and repeated suggestions from the hypnotist that aimed to increase relaxation.

After the health-promotion project came to a close, 16 of the 38 nurses who had received massage or hypnosis volunteered to share their experiences and perceptions in a focus group. Four one-hour focus-group discussions took place, led by an external moderator and an assistant who was not involved in the complementary interventions.

The focus-group discussions were recorded, then transcribed verbatim. The researchers used a technique called manifest content analysis to analyze the data from the focus groups and gather the qualitative findings.

The analysis showed both massage and hypnosis helped the nurses better deal with the stressful environment of the emergency ward, by boosting their ability to continue the shift, enhancing their sense of self-control and balance, relieving pain, and increasing relaxation and patience, among other benefits.

“Tactile massage and hypnosis may reduce stress and pain and increase well-being, self-awareness and work ability for the nursing personnel at a short-term emergency ward,” the study’s authors conclude.


Authors: Fanny Airosa, Susanne K. Andersson, Torkel Falkenberg, Christina Forsberg, Elisabeth Nordby-Hornell, Gunnar Ohlen and Tobias Sundberg.

Sources: Unit for Studies of Integrative Health Care, Karolinska Institutet, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Nursing, Huddinge, Sweden; Karolinska University Hospital, Emergency Department, Stockholm, Sweden; and the Vidarinstitutet Research Foundation, Jarna, Sweden. Originally published online October 2011 in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11(83).