Background: Massage is increasingly used to manage chronic pain but its benefit has not been clearly established. The aim of the study is to determine the effectiveness of a single session of nurse-administered massage for the short term relief of chronic non-malignant pain and anxiety.
Methods: A randomised controlled trial design was used, in which the patients were assigned to a massage or control group. The massage group received a 15 minute manual massage and the control group a 15 minute visit to talk about their pain. Adult patients attending a pain relief unit with a diagnosis of chronic pain whose pain was described as moderate or severe were eligible for the study. An observer blind to the patients' treatment group carried out assessments immediately before (baseline), after treatment and 1, 2, 3 and 4 hours later. Pain was assessed using 100 mm visual analogue scale and the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Pain Relief was assessed using a five point verbal rating scale. Anxiety was assessed with the Spielberger short form State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.
Results: 101 patients were randomised and evaluated, 50 in the massage and 51 in the control group. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups at baseline interview. Patients in the massage but not the control group had significantly less pain compared to baseline immediately after and one hour post treatment. 95% confidence interval for the difference in mean pain reduction at one hour post treatment between the massage and control groups is 5.47 mm to 24.70 mm. Patients in the massage but not the control group had a statistically significant reduction in anxiety compared to baseline immediately after and at 1 hour post treatment.
Conclusion: Massage is effective in the short term for chronic pain of moderate to severe intensity.
Trial registration: [ISRCTN98406653].