Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of massage therapy in reducing physiological and psychological indicators of stress in nurses employed in an acute care hospital.
Design: Randomised controlled trial.
Setting: Acute care hospital in Queensland.
Subjects: Sixty nurses were recruited to the five week study and randomly assigned to two groups.
Intervention: A 15 minute back massage once a week. The control group did not receive any therapy.
Main outcome measures: Demographic information, a life events questionnaire and a brief medical history of all participants was completed at enrolment. Physiological stress was measured at weeks one, three and five by urinary cortisol and blood pressure readings. Psychological stress levels were measured at weeks one and five with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).
Results: Differences in the change in urinary cortisol and blood pressure between the two groups did not reach statistical significance. However, STAI scores decreased over the five weeks for those participants who received a weekly massage. The STAI scores of the control group increased over the five week period. These differences between the groups were statistically significant.
Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that massage therapy is a beneficial tool for the health of nurses as it may reduce psychological stress levels. It is recommended that further large studies be conducted to measure the symptoms of stress rather than the physiological signs of stress in nurses.