The use of therapeutic massage as a nursing intervention to modify anxiety and the perception of cancer pain

Cancer Nurs. 1993 Apr;16(2):93-101.


The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the effects of therapeutic massage (consisting of effleurage, petrissage, and myofascial trigger point therapy) on pain perception, anxiety, and relaxation levels in hospitalized patients experiencing significant cancer pain. Thirty minutes of therapeutic massage was administered on two consecutive evenings to nine hospitalized males diagnosed with cancer and experiencing cancer pain. The subjects' self-reports of pain and relaxation (measured by Visual Analogue Scales) as well as anxiety (measured by the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory) were recorded before and immediately after the intervention. The objective physiologic measures of heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure were obtained before, immediately after, and, finally, 10 min after the massage intervention. Massage therapy significantly reduced the subjects' level of pain perception (average = 60%) and anxiety (average = 24%) while enhancing their feelings of relaxation by an average of 58%. In addition to these subjective measures, all physiological measures (heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure) tended to decrease from baseline, providing further indication of relaxation. In conclusion, although the exact mechanism is not known, therapeutic massage is a beneficial nursing intervention that promotes relaxation and alleviates the perception of pain and anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Relaxation / physiology
  • Respiration / physiology


  • Analgesics