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Massage in Acute Care

Managing pain for patients in an acute care setting can be a tricky situation for hospitals. Medical professionals don’t want to undertreat pain, inadequately manage it, or over treat it; all of which could lead to unpleasant physical and psychological outcomes for patients and their families. And in the face of the nation’s opioid epidemic, hospitals and accreditation organizations across the United States are adopting complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) initiatives like massage therapy to address pain treatment strategies, according to a study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

Study Overview & Results

Conducted at Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, a nonprofit community hospital that serves a large rural area of northern Arizona, researchers provided 53 hospital patients with one or more massage therapy sessions, averaging 30 minutes each, by three licensed massage therapists employed by the hospital. The most common modalities included gentle Swedish, acupressure, craniosacral therapy, or cross-fiber myotherapy with light-pressure.

The study included patients from medical, surgical, and obstetrics units. Pain levels before and after massage therapy were recorded using a 0 – 10 visual analog scale. The findings determined that before massage, the mean pain level recorded by the patients was 5.18. After massage, the mean pain level was 2.33.

In the end, qualitative data illustrated improvement in all areas, with the most significant areas of impact reported being overall pain level, emotional well-being, relaxation, and ability to sleep. This study shows that integration of massage therapy into the acute care setting creates overall positive results in the patient’s ability to deal with the physical and psychological outcomes of their health condition, including a significant reduction of pain, and increase in relaxation, sleep, and recovery time.

The study reports that the primary findings “show a strong correlation between reduction of pain levels after massage therapy and statistically significant differences in pain scores before and after massage. The perception among participants of improved pain levels and less need for pain medication underscore the promise of massage therapy’s positive effect on pain management protocols.”

Interested in beginning a career in massage?

If you would enjoy a rewarding career bringing the gift of human touch to patients in need, LHAA has just the program. We offer 100-hour advanced training in Hospital-Based Massage Therapy (HBMT), the first of its kind in the state of Kentucky. This unique program encompasses the clinical aspect of working in the hospital setting while providing in-depth guidelines and protocols to safely work on all populations of hospital patients. View information about our full academic program online.

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