Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionMassagePain

Massage to help treat pain after surgery

It’s effective and safe as add-on therapy following major operations, according to researchers at the VA Hospitals in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Indianapolis, Indiana.

First, the details.

  • 605 veterans undergoing major surgery were randomly assigned to the following 3 treatments.
    • Routine care
    • Individual attention from a massage therapist (20 minutes)
    • Back massage by a massage therapist each evening for up to 5 postoperative days

And, the results.

  • The massage group had significant short-term decreases in pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, and anxiety compared to routine care.
  • The massage group had a significantly faster rate of decrease in pain intensity and unpleasantness during the first 4 postoperative days compared with routine care.
  • There were no differences in the rates of decrease in long-term anxiety, length of stay, opiate use, or complications among the 3 groups.

The bottom line?
Similar results were published in 2003. In both studies there was decreased pain intensity, which didn’t result in less drug use or any fiscal benefit.

However, if massage makes the hospital stay more pleasant, it seems like a viable way for hospitals to distinguish their care compared to the competition.

Mayo Clinic believes it worthwhile to retain a full-time massage therapist. And here’s a link to the CAM options offered at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

1/22/08 15:49 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.