Cancer pain is the most common complaint among patients with cancer. Conventional treatment does not always relieve cancer pain satisfactorily. Therefore, many patients with cancer have turned to complementary therapies to help them with their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Massage therapy is increasingly used for symptom relief in patients with cancer. The current study aimed to investigate by meta-analysis the effects of massage therapy for cancer patients experiencing pain. Nine electronic databases were systematically searched for studies published through August 2013 in English, Chinese, and Korean. Methodological quality was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) and Cochrane risk-of-bias scales. Twelve studies, including 559 participants, were used in the meta-analysis. In 9 high-quality studies based on the PEDro scale (standardized mean difference, -1.24; 95% confidence interval, -1.72 to -0.75), we observed reduction in cancer pain after massage. Massage therapy significantly reduced cancer pain compared with no massage treatment or conventional care (standardized mean difference, -1.25; 95% confidence interval, -1.63 to -0.87). Our results indicate that massage is effective for the relief of cancer pain, especially for surgery-related pain. Among the various types of massage, foot reflexology appeared to be more effective than body or aroma massage. Our meta-analysis indicated a beneficial effect of massage for relief of cancer pain. Further well-designed, large studies with longer follow-up periods are needed to be able to draw firmer conclusions regarding the effectiveness.
Keywords: PEDro scale; cancer pain; massage therapy; meta-analysis; randomized controlled trials.
© The Author(s) 2015.