Massage Therapy for Bone Marrow Transplant Patients
Since an increasing number of patients are using massage therapy for coping with stress and tension, medical research is just beginning to test its efficacy. This study chose to test the physical and psychological effects of massage on patients undergoing bone marrow transplant (BMT). It is fitting to apply this therapy on BMT patients since they are experiencing radiation and chemotherapy treatment, with all the physical and psychological symptoms involved in such a procedure. As well, these patients—all hospitalized for three weeks—do not have other coping strategy options, such as walking or social activities; massage was viewed as a passive coping strategy.
16 patients received nine, 20-minute upper body massages over a three-week period. 17 controls had designated 20-minute "quiet time" in which they were not interrupted by staff or visitors, or permitted to get up. The researchers evaluated the patients' anxiety, depression, mood, fatigue, nausea, and pain before, during and after treatment.
The strongest indication of massage's effect was seen immediately after a session. Patients experienced a reduction in blood pressure, nausea, distress, and anxiety. Mood change and level of anxiety had improved at the time of discharge. Yet, in terms of psychological scores, no significant differences were seen between the two groups. The authors write:
"In designing the study, we had hoped that the measures of the overall impact of massage on anxiety, depression, and mood would evaluate the cumulative effects of massage. However, the lack of significance in most of the standardized psychological measures between groups may be due to the fact that many of the major measures were improving over time for all patients as they progressed through BMT. Therefore, the standard measures of anxiety, depression, and mood may have been too gross to assess group differences. An alternative approach to defining the longevity of the positive effects of massage would be to design a study that includes repeated assessment points at specified intervals post-massage."
The authors call for additional research on massage's role in improving BMT patient's quality of life.
Ahles TA, Tope DM, Pinkson B, et al. Massage therapy for patients undergoing autologous bone marrow transplantation. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 1999;18(3):157-163. Mike