Study Finds Massage Therapy Effective in Hospice Patients with Poorly Controlled Symptoms

Massage therapy is very effective for pain relief, stress relief, and relaxation in hospice patients, according to a pilot study published in the January 2022 issue of the Journal of Palliative Care.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic examined 27 patients (22 of whom were evaluated in the study’s analysis) with poorly controlled symptoms in a single hospice program. Over 70 percent of these patients had a primary hospice diagnosis of cancer. Each patient received up to three weekly sessions of massage therapy, with satisfaction surveys completed before the study, after each massage, and one week after the last massage. (Although they did not receive hands-on therapy, caregivers were also surveyed before the study and one week after the last massage of the patient they were caring for.)

The results? Patients who completed all their massage therapy sessions largely reported decreased symptoms of pain, depression, and anxiety.

According to the study authors, “the patients who completed all of the massage therapy visits and the final visit one week after their last massage indicated very high satisfaction with massage therapy,” with 86.7 percent of them being very satisfied. Also, “patients completing the final satisfaction survey indicated high levels of satisfaction with massage therapy with 100 percent noting that they would recommend it to others.”

While researchers did not find significant changes in quality of life or stress levels for caregivers (who were largely spouses of the patient), they also didn’t see any worsening in their stress measure scores.

Study authors concluded that while these research findings are promising for patients in hospice care, this is a small sample and “further research would need to be conducted to investigate whether the response to massage therapy varies based on demographics, disease state, or type of pain.” The authors also noted that the primary goal of this research was to establish “logistical aspects” for the design of future massage therapy studies with this population.

Read the full study online here.

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