Symptoms Associated With Other Cancers

A meta-analysis that included 16 RCTs found that massage therapy was effective for managing pain compared with no treatment (standardized mean difference [SMD], -0.20; 95% CI, -0.99 to 0.59) or an active comparator (SMD, -0.55; 95% CI, -1.23 to 0.14).13 Another meta-analysis published around the same time, which included 12 studies with 559 patients with cancer pain, found that massage therapy significantly improved cancer-related pain compared with conventional care (SMD, -1.25; 95% CI, -1.63 to -0.87), and was particularly effective for surgery-related pain.14 In this study, reflexology was more effective than classic massage or aromatherapy massage. Following these meta-analyses, another small RCT showed that slow-stroke back massage significantly improved progressive sleep disorder and sleep quality over time, as well as reduced pain and fatigue compared with controls.15


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Massage therapy significantly reduced anxiety (SMD, -1.24; 95% CI, -2.44 to -0.03) and fatigue (SMD, -1.06; 95% CI, -2.18 to 0.05),13 particularly in the short term, after a session.16,17

General symptoms were improved by massage therapy in several different RCTs. Massage therapy improved quality of life scores18,19 and improved symptom distress, severity, and interference, as well as self-reported physical complaints.20-22 Massage also improved constipation and total mood.23,24

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Conclusions

Current evidence suggests that massage therapy can be an effective supportive care technique with the potential to improve mood, pain, nausea, quality of life, and symptom burden. The beneficial effects of massage are most likely transient, occurring only after a massage therapy session concludes. Long-term benefits likely require continued massage therapy.

References

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