Research Roundup: Massage Therapy for Surgical Pain

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New Research Analysis Indicates Value of Massage Therapy for Surgical Pain

Based on the evidence, massage therapy can be effective for reducing pain intensity/severity and anxiety in patients undergoing surgical procedures.

This is the conclusion of a collaborative meta-analysis of research on massage therapy for pain conducted by Samueli Institute and commissioned by the Massage Therapy Foundation, with support from the American Massage Therapy Association. This review and analysis is published in the September issue of the journal Pain Medicine.

The study concludes that patients should consider massage therapy as a therapeutic option to help manage their pain and anxiety from surgical procedures.

Surgical-related Pain Management

Pain management is a critical and challenging issue for patients who are either about to undergo or recovering from surgical or operative procedures. If postoperative pain is effectively managed at the acute stage or during immediate postsurgical periods, patients are often able to recover uneventfully and return to their normal daily activities1.

However, a significant number of patients transition into chronic post-surgery pain (CPSP)1,2 or persistent postsurgical pain3, defined as pain lasting longer than 2 to 3 months after surgery2,4. One study assessing the cause of chronic pain reported that 22.5% of chronic pain was attributed to surgery5. Such pain places significant psychosocial and economic burdens on patients and represents a major public health problem3,6.

Surgery-related pain is also closely associated with various functional outcomes, including sleep, mood, quality of life, and sleep disturbances7. And, patients who are about to undergo surgery commonly experience fear and anxiety, which complicate pre- and post-surgical pain management4,8 and increases the likelihood of developing subsequent CPSP4.

As pain becomes chronic, anxiety and fear intensify and avoidance behaviors become more frequent, interfering with daily activities and negatively affecting the patients’ emotional wellbeing and quality of life.

Related: Massage Therapy for Post-operative Pain  | 2.5 Credit Hours

About the Study

This systematic review and meta-analysis is the first to rigorously assess the quality of massage therapy research and evidence for its efficacy and effectiveness in treating pain, function-related and health-related quality of life outcomes for people with various types of surgical pain and anxiety.

Read the other massage and pain studies in this series:

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2 Peng Z, Li H, Zhang C, et al. A retrospective study of chronic post-surgical pain following thoracic surgery: Prevalence, risk factors, incidence of neuropathic component, and impact on qualify of life. PloS One 2014;9 (2):e90014. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090014.
3 Sieberg CB, Simons LE, Edelstein MR, et al. Pain prevalence and trajectories following pediatric spinal fusion surgery. J Pain 2013;14 (12):1694–702.
4 Clarke H, Woodhouse LJ, Kennedy D, Stratford P, Katz J. Strategies aimed at preventing chronic postsurgical pain: Comprehensive perioperative pain management after total joint replacement surgery. Physiother Can 2011;63(3):289–304.
5 Crombie IK, Davies HT, Macrae WA. Cut and thrust: Antecedent surgery and trauma among patients attending a chronic pain clinic. Pain 1998;76 (1–2):167–71.
6 Jamison R, Edwards R. Integrating pain management in clinical practice. J Clin Psychol Med Settings 2012;19 (1):49–64.
7 Finan P, Goodin B, Smith M. The association of sleep and pain: An update and a path forward. J Pain 2013;14 (12):1539–52.
8 Adams R, White B, Beckett C. The effects of massage therapy on pain management in the acute care setting. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork 2010;3(1):4–11.5

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