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New research analysis indicates value of massage therapy for surgical pain

Massage therapy can be effective for reducing pain intensity, severity and anxiety in patients undergoing surgical procedures. This is the conclusion of a collaborative meta-analysis of research on massage therapy for pain conducted by Samueli Institute and commissioned by the Massage Therapy Foundation, with support from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

September 20, 2016  By MTC staff

This review and analysis is published in the September issue of the journal Pain Medicine.

The study concludes that patients should consider massage therapy as a therapeutic option to help manage their pain and anxiety from surgical procedures.

Pain management is a critical and challenging issue for patients who are either about to undergo or recovering from surgical or operative procedures. If postoperative pain is effectively managed at the acute stage or during immediate postsurgical periods, patients are often able to recover uneventfully and return to their normal daily activities, according to the report. However, a significant number of patients transition into chronic post-surgery pain (CPSP) or persistent postsurgical pain, defined as pain lasting longer than two to three months after surgery.

One study assessing the cause of chronic pain reported that 22.5 per cent of chronic pain was attributed to surgery. Such pain places significant psychosocial and economic burdens on patients and represents a major public health problem, the AMTA said in a statement.


Surgery-related pain is also closely associated with various functional outcomes, including sleep, mood, quality of life, and sleep disturbances. And, patients who are about to undergo surgery commonly experience fear and anxiety, which complicate pre- and post-surgical pain management and increases the likelihood of developing subsequent CPSP. As pain becomes chronic, anxiety and fear intensify and avoidance behaviors become more frequent, interfering with daily activities and negatively affecting the patients’ emotional wellbeing and quality of life.

This systematic review and meta-analysis is the first to rigorously assess the quality of massage therapy research and evidence for its efficacy and effectiveness in treating pain, function-related and health-related quality of life outcomes for people with various types of surgical pain and anxiety.

Samueli Institute is an independent, nonprofit research organization dedicated to exploring the science of healing.

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