Medical massage is one of the fastest growing career fields for massage therapists today. New research shows that massage therapy can help improve outcomes for surgical patients.
For patients who undergo surgery, pre- and post-surgical pain management is critical. Many patients also experience anxiety in advance of their operations and some continue to struggle with anxiety, stress, and low mood during the recovery process. According to a recent AMTA Research Roundup, “If postoperative pain is effectively managed at the acute stage or during immediate postsurgical periods, patients are often able to recover uneventfully and return to their normal daily activities. However, a significant number of patients transition into chronic post-surgery pain or persistent postsurgical pain.”
Massage therapy has been suggested as a useful adjunct element of acute postsurgical care. Several studies have been undertaken to assess the impact of massage therapy on postoperative pain. For example, a 2003 randomized clinical trial published in the Journal of American College of Surgeons showed massage to have a strong positive effect of reducing discomfort following surgery. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork looked at the impact of postoperative massage therapy for 160 thoracic surgery patients. Patients receiving manual therapy “had significantly decreased pain scores after massage (p <= .001), and patients' comments were very favorable.”
The alleviation of stress and discomfort may be as essential to patient recovery as the surgery itself. To learn more about the positive impact of massage therapy on postsurgical outcomes, check out the AMTA’s Position Statement on massage therapy for postoperative pain relief. There you can find links to further studies and resources for educating yourself and your medical massage clients.