Massage therapy for cardiac surgery patients--a randomized trial

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2012 Dec;144(6):1453-9, 1459.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2012.04.027. Epub 2012 Sep 7.


Objectives: To determine whether massage significantly reduces anxiety, pain, and muscular tension and enhances relaxation compared with an equivalent period of rest time after cardiac surgery. The feasibility of delivering the treatment, effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, and patient satisfaction were also assessed.

Methods: Elective cardiac surgery patients were randomized to receive massage or rest time at 2 points after surgery. Visual analog scales were used to measure pain, anxiety, relaxation, muscular tension, and satisfaction. Heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure were measured before and after treatment. Focus groups and feedback were used to collect qualitative data about clinical significance and feasibility.

Results: A total of 152 patients (99% response rate) participated. Massage therapy produced a significantly greater reduction in pain (P = .001), anxiety (P < .0001), and muscular tension (P = .002) and increases in relaxation (P < .0001) and satisfaction (P = .016) compared to the rest time. No significant differences were seen for heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Pain was significantly reduced after massage on day 3 or 4 (P < .0001) and day 5 or 6 (P = .003). The control group experienced no significant change at either time. Anxiety (P < .0001) and muscular tension (P < .0001) were also significantly reduced in the massage group at both points. Relaxation was significantly improved on day 3 or 4 for both groups (massage, P < .0001; rest time, P = .006), but only massage was effective on day 5 or 6 (P < .0001). Nurses and physiotherapists observed patient improvements and helped facilitate delivery of the treatment by the massage therapists on the ward.

Conclusions: Massage therapy significantly reduced the pain, anxiety, and muscular tension and improves relaxation and satisfaction after cardiac surgery.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / psychology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Elective Surgical Procedures
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Tonus
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Postoperative Care
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Complications / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Relaxation
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Victoria