Effect of massage on pain management for thoracic surgery patients

Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2011;4(2):2-6. doi: 10.3822/ijtmb.v4i2.100. Epub 2011 Jun 29.


Background: Integrative therapies such as massage have gained support as interventions that improve the overall patient experience during hospitalization. Thoracic surgery patients undergo long procedures and commonly have postoperative back, neck, and shoulder pain.

Purpose: Given the promising effects of massage therapy for alleviation of pain, we studied the effectiveness and feasibility of massage therapy delivered in the postoperative thoracic surgery setting.

Methods: Patients who received massage in the postoperative setting had pain scores evaluated pre and post massage on a rating scale of 0 to 10 (0 = no pain, 10 = worst possible pain).

Results: In total, 160 patients completed the pilot study and received massage therapy that was individualized. Patients receiving massage therapy had significantly decreased pain scores after massage (p ≤ .001), and patients' comments were very favorable. Patients and staff were highly satisfied with having massage therapy available, and no major barriers to implementing massage therapy were identified.

Conclusions: Massage therapy may be an important additional pain management component of the healing experience for patients after thoracic surgery.

Keywords: Massage; pain; surgery; thorax.