Researchers from the Cardiothoracic Surgical Research Unit at Monash University and Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia investigated whether massage therapy could reduce anxiety, pain, and muscular tension, and enhance relaxation in cardiac surgery patients, as compared with treatment as usual (rest time).
They also assessed the feasibility of delivering this treatment; the effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate; and patient satisfaction.
A total of 152 elective cardiac surgery patients were randomized to receive either massage or rest at 2 points after their surgery. Visual analog scales were used to measure self-reported pain, anxiety, relaxation, muscular tension, and satisfaction. In addition, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure were measured before and after treatment. Focus groups and feedback were also used to collect qualitative data about clinical significance and feasibility.
Nurses and physiotherapists observed patient responses and helped facilitate delivery of the treatment by the massage therapists on the ward.
The study found that the massage condition produced a significantly greater reduction in pain (P = .001), anxiety (P < .0001), and muscular tension (P = .002), and increases in relaxation (P < .0001) and satisfaction (P = .016), as compared to the rest time condition.
No significant differences were found for heart rate, respiratory rate or blood pressure. Pain was significantly reduced after massage on day 3 or 4 (P < .0001) and day 5 or 6 (P = .003).
The control group experienced no significant change at either time. Anxiety (P < .0001) and muscular tension (P < .0001) were also significantly reduced in the massage group at both points. Relaxation was significantly improved on day 3 or 4 for both groups (massage, P < .0001; rest time, P = .006), but only massage was effective on day 5 or 6 (P < .0001).
The investigators concluded that massage therapy significantly reduces pain, anxiety and muscular tension, and improves relaxation and satisfaction, after cardiac surgery.