Frequent sessions of short massage therapy may improve quality of life (QOL) and symptoms of chronic illness among hospitalized patients, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.
According to the study authors, “Therapeutic massage is 1 of the most common nonpharmacologic strategies offered to improve quality of life, provide comfort, and decrease pain in hospice and palliative care settings outside the hospital.”
Hospitalized patients (N=387) undergoing palliative care consultation at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center in the United States were recruited to participate in this study. Patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive 10-minute massages daily for 3 days (n=126), 20-minute massages daily for 3 days (n=129), or a single 20-minute massage (n=132). The primary outcome was change in McGill Quality of Life (MQOL) scores from baseline.
The mean age of study participants was 55.6 (range, 19-96) years, 61.2% were women, 65.6% were Black, 45.0% were receiving palliative care for cancer, 18.3% were considered to be at extreme mortality risk, 28.4% had extreme illness severity, and the average length of hospitalization was 23.8 (range, 1.6-178.2) days. Overall, 4.7% of the study population died during hospitalization.
Global MQOL scores improved from 6.06 points at baseline to 6.77 points at follow-up (t, 8.694; P =0.000).
Stratified by MQOL components, recipients of 10-minute massages had significant improvements in QOL, physical symptoms, physical well-being, psychological well-being, and the feeling of being at peace (all P ≤.024); recipients of 20-minute massages had significant improvements in QOL, physical well-being, and psychological well-being, as well as existential and distress components (all P ≤.018); and recipients of a single 20-minute massage had significant improvements in QOL, physical symptoms, physical well-being, and psychological well-being, as well as existential, support, and peace components (all P ≤.022).
For Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) outcomes, global ESAS scores improved from 47.42 points at baseline to 43.1 points at follow-up (t, -4.043; P =.000) among all study participants.
Stratified by ESAS components, no improvements were observed among recipients of 10-minute massage sessions. Multiple 20-minute massages were associated with improvement in pain, nausea, depression, and well-being outcomes (all P ≤.039). Recipients of a single 20-minute massage reported improvement in pain, nausea, depression, anxious, and well-being outcomes (all P ≤.046).
For each of the 10 ESAS symptoms, patients were stratified into clinically important difference categories. No significant group differences were observed for any outcome. In general, the proportion of patients who had a clinically meaningful improvement ranged from 26.0% for nausea to 47.2% for pain.
Patients were highly satisfied with the massage interventions, with between 89.2% and 95.7% reporting that they would like to receive massage therapy in the future.
In the analysis using all 3 study arms, time but not group was associated with significant improvements in distress, peace, and pain scores (P ≤.001), and a significant group-by-time interaction was observed for all 3 outcomes (F range, 3.14-5.93; all P ≤.002).
In the analysis using only the 2 interventions that included multiple massages, time but not group was associated with significant improvements in distress and pain scores (both P ≤.001), and a significant group-by-time interaction was observed for distress, peace, and pain outcomes (F range, 3.71-5.66; all P <.001).
Limitations of this study include the lack of a control group with no massage intervention and the inclusion of patients with different complex diseases.
In conclusion, the study authors found that frequent short massages provided QOL and symptom outcome benefits among hospitalized patients. However, additional, longer-term studies involving massage therapy are warranted.
This article originally appeared on Clinical Pain Advisor
Groninger H, Nemati D, Cates C, et al. Massage therapy for hospitalized patients receiving palliative care: a randomized clinical trial. J Pain Symptom Manage. Published online January 30, 2023. doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2023.01.011