Constipation can result from chemotherapy, pain medication and nausea-reducing drugs, all used variously for cancer treatment. New research shows that massage therapy combined with aromatherapy relieves constipation in advanced cancer patients.

Researchers from the Department of Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, Hong Kong, China, set out to see if aromatherapy plus massage therapy relieved constipation in advanced cancer patients.

“This study employed a randomized control group pre- and post- test design and included an aroma massage group, plain massage group and control group,” stated an abstract posted on “To evaluate the effect of aromatherapy, the degree of constipation was measured using a constipation assessment scale, severity level of constipation and the frequency of bowel movements.”

The participants in the aroma massage group posted scores on a constipation assessment scale that were significantly lower than the control group. In addition to improvement in bowel movements, “the results showed significantly improved quality of life in physical and support domains of the aroma massage group,” the abstract stated.

“The findings of this study suggest aroma massage can help to relieve constipation in patients with advanced cancer,” the researchers noted.

The abstract did not stipulate what type of aromatherapy essential-oil or oil blend was used. “Effectiveness of aroma massage on advanced cancer patients with constipation: A pilot study” is running in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. (2011 Feb;17(1):37-43. Epub 2010 Jun 12.)

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