Therapeutic massage and healing touch improve symptoms in cancer

Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 Dec;2(4):332-44. doi: 10.1177/1534735403259064.


Complementary therapies are increasingly used to reduce side effects of cancer treatment, without evidence for their effectiveness. In a randomized, prospective, 2-period, crossover intervention study, the authors tested the effects of therapeutic massage (MT) and healing touch (HT), in comparison to presence alone or standard care, in inducing relaxation and reducing symptoms in 230 subjects. MT and HT lowered blood pressure, respiratory rate (RR), and heart rate (HR). MT lowered anxiety and HT lowered fatigue, and both lowered total mood disturbance. Pain ratings were lower after MT and HT, with 4-week nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug use less during MT. There were no effects on nausea. Presence reduced RR and HR but did not differ from standard care on any measure of pain, nausea, mood states, anxiety, or fatigue. MT and HT are more effective than presence alone or standard care in reducing pain, mood disturbance, and fatigue in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Therapeutic Touch*
  • Treatment Outcome