Background: Opioid analgesia alone may not fully relieve all aspects of acute postoperative pain. Complementary medicine techniques used as adjuvant therapies have the potential to improve pain management and palliate postoperative distress.
Study design: This prospective randomized clinical trial compared pain relief after major operations in 202 patients who received one of three nursing interventions: massage, focused attention, or routine care. Interventions were performed twice daily starting 24 hours after the operation through postoperative day 7. Perceived pain was measured each morning.
Results: The rate of decline in the unpleasantness of postoperative pain was accelerated by massage (p = 0.05). Massage also accelerated the rate of decline in the intensity of postoperative pain but this effect was not statistically significant. Use of opioid analgesics was not altered significantly by the interventions.
Conclusions: Massage may be a useful adjuvant therapy for the management of acute postoperative pain. Its greatest effect appears to be on the affective component (ie, unpleasantness) of the pain.