Massage Therapy Promising for Pain, Anxiety in Patients With Cancer

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Massage can help lessen side effects caused by cancer treatment.
Massage can help lessen side effects caused by cancer treatment.

Massage therapy may be promising for reducing the intensity/severity of pain, fatigue, and anxiety in patients with cancer, a study published in the journal Pain Medicine has shown.1

Previously reported studies have demonstrated that more than half of patients undergoing active cancer treatment report experiencing pain, with the highest prevalence among patients with head and neck cancer, suggesting that these patients are not adequately treated for their pain.

Moreover, patients who experience cancer pain often simultaneously report significant anxiety and depression, as well as fatigue and weakness, which can all negatively impact quality of life.

Massage therapy is commonly practiced among patients seeking to relieve their pain, but its efficacy is unclear. Therefore, researchers sought to conduct a meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy of massage therapy in treating pain and quality of life in this patient population.

For the study, investigators analyzed data from 12 high quality and 4 low quality studies. They found that massage therapy is effective for treating pain compared with no treatment and active comparators.

Results further showed that massage therapy was beneficial for reducing fatigue and anxiety compared with active comparators.

The authors conclude that patients should consider massage therapy as an option for reducing their cancer pain; however, the strength of the recommendations is weak as compared with an active comparator for improving pain and quality of life.


1. New research analysis indicates massage therapy shows promise for pain & anxiety in cancer patients. PR Newswire website. Updated August 17, 2016. Accessed August 18, 2016.

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