Objective: To examine the effects of adjunctive postoperative massage and vibration therapy on short-term postsurgical pain, negative affect, and physiologic stress reactivity.
Design: Prospective, randomized controlled trial. The treatment groups were: (1) usual postoperative care (UC); (2) UC plus massage therapy; or (3) UC plus vibration therapy.
Setting: The University of Virginia Hospital Surgical Units, Gynecology-Oncology Clinic, and General Clinical Research Center.
Subjects: One hundred and five (N = 105) women who underwent an abdominal laparotomy for removal of suspected cancerous lesions.
Interventions: All patients received UC with analgesic medication. Additionally, the massage group received standardized 45-minute sessions of gentle Swedish massage on the 3 consecutive evenings after surgery and the vibration group received 20-minute sessions of inaudible vibration therapy (physiotones) on the 3 consecutive evenings after surgery, as well as additional sessions as desired.
Outcome measures: Sensory pain, affective pain, anxiety, distress, analgesic use, systolic blood pressure, 24-hour urine free cortisol, number of postoperative complications, and days of hospitalization.
Results: On the day of surgery, massage was more effective than UC for affective (p = 0.0244) and sensory pain (p = 0.0428), and better than vibration for affective pain (p = 0.0015). On postoperative day 2, massage was more effective than UC for distress (p = 0.0085), and better than vibration for sensory pain (p = 0.0085). Vibration was also more effective than UC for sensory pain (p = 0.0090) and distress (p = .0090). However, after controlling for multiple comparisons and multiple outcomes, no significant differences were found.
Conclusions: Gentle Swedish massage applied postoperatively may have minor effects on short-term sensory pain, affective pain, and distress among women undergoing an abdominal laparotomy for removal of suspected malignant tissues.