A US study has shown that massage therapy may help to relieve acute postoperative pain in patients who have major surgery.
According to study senior author Dr.Daniel B. Hinshaw, professor of surgery and a member of the palliative care team at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan, “In patients getting massage, the acute response was equivalent to a dose of morphine which was pretty remarkable.”
The study involved 605 men who were 64 years and older and who had undergone major surgery. Out of them 200 has received nightly 20-minute back massages for four days. On a scale of 1 to 10, those who got massages reported their pain diminished one level faster than those who did not.
According to the study, “The rate of decline was faster by about a day for patients in the massage group. Patients also experienced short-term declines in anxiety following massage.
However, the study did not find any differences in long-term patient anxiety, length of hospital stay or the amount of pain relieving medication used among the three groups.
The limitations of this study include the fact that virtually all participants were elderly men; potential self-selection bias because patients who did not want to be touched refused to participate; and the inability to perform dose-response interventions.
Interestingly, from now onwards, massage will become a part of the post-surgical routine at the Ann Arbor facility and related VA facilities in the region. Hinshaw’s group is now exploring its use to reduce the incidence and length of delirium experienced after surgery. Delirium is very difficult to treat, and can often lengthen the time spent in the hospital post surgery.