Efficacy of Precise Foot Massage Therapy on Pain and Anxiety Following Cardiac Surgery: Pilot Study

Pain Manag Nurs. 2020 Aug;21(4):314-322. doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2019.09.005. Epub 2019 Nov 14.


Background: Pain is the most pervasive distressing symptom following cardiac surgery. Forty percent of postoperative cardiac patients report inadequate pain management. Undertreated acute pain results in increased anxiety, delayed wound healing, and increased chance of persistent chronic pain. Foot massage is a safe, visible complementary approach to manage acute pain following surgery.

Aim: The aim of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of integrating foot massage therapy for managing postcardiac pain.

Method: A randomized placebo controlled single blinded trial comparing foot massage to placebo was conducted at a large hospital in Saudi Arabia. Thirty-one patients who had undergone cardiac surgery (16 in experimental and 15 in placebo group) participated in the study. Ten-minute foot massage was delivered to the experimental group by a nurse researcher, twice during one day, within 30 minutes after receiving an opioid pain medication.

Results: The findings of this study indicate that foot massage significantly (p < .05) decreases pain intensity and anxiety in patients who have undergone cardiac surgery compared with a placebo control group.

Conclusion: Providing non-pharmacologic interventions for pain is the responsibility of the nursing staff. Foot massage is within the scope of nursing practice and is a safe and effective manner of improving patient care. Foot massage in conjunction with pharmacological interventions is effective in improving pain and anxiety. Future studies should consider focusing on frequency, dose, feasibility, acceptability, and participants' satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Female
  • Foot*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods
  • Massage / standards*
  • Massage / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Management / standards*
  • Pain Management / statistics & numerical data
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Treatment Outcome