CancerMassagePainPalliative/End of Life

Comparing benefits of massage vs touch in cancer patients

 Small studies suggest that massage therapy may relieve pain and other symptoms.

Here are results from a large study.

First, the details.

  • 380 adults with advanced cancer and moderate-to-severe pain were studied.
  • 90% were enrolled in a hospice.
  • The patients were randomly assigned to 6, 30-minute massage or simple-touch sessions over 2 weeks.
  • A battery of scales was used to measure response.
  • Immediate outcomes were obtained just before and after each treatment session.
  • Sustained outcomes were obtained at the start of the study and weekly for 3 weeks.

And, the results.

  • Both groups showed immediate improvement in pain and mood.
  • Massage was significantly superior for both immediate pain and mood.
  • However, there were no differences over time in sustained pain, worst pain, quality of life, symptom distress, or analgesic medication use.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Massage may have immediately beneficial effects on pain and mood among patients with advanced cancer.”

It’s too bad the researchers failed include a no treatment (control) group in the study. As they point out, the results suggest there might be benefits in paying greater attention to these patients and in simple touch.

9/16/08 10:49 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.