Massage techniques

03/17/2003 - Questions and Answers

Massage techniques

By: Mark Castleden



I am interested in geriatric massage. Can you recommend any articles on the subject?


Richards determined the effects of a back massage, muscle relaxation, mental imagery, and music audio tape on the sleep of older men with cardiovascular illness who were hospitalised in a critical care unit. The 69 subjects were randomly assigned to a 6 minute back massage, a teaching session on relaxation, or a 7.5 minute audio tape at bedtime consisting of muscle relaxation, mental imagery and relaxing background music. A fourth group received normal nursing care. Polysomnography was used to measure sleep for each patient, and each patient was also questioned about their sleep. Descriptive statistics showed improved quality of sleep among the back massage group. Initial analysis showed a significant difference among the three groups in sleep efficiency index. Patients in the back massage group slept more than 1 hour longer than patients in the control group, and the conclusions were that back massage is useful in promoting sleep in critically ill older men (American Journal of Critical Care 1998;7:288-299).

Nixon et al looked at post-operative pain and the effect of massage on this. The results indicated that massage produced a significant reduction in patients' perception of pain over a 24hr period. A linear positive relationship emerged between the patient's age and the duration of the massage (the older the person, the longer the massage). The study indicated that further investigation of the potential for massage to reduce pain was warranted (Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing 1997;14:21-26).

Tyndall looked at the effects of slow-stroke back massage on systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature as indicators of relaxation in 30 hospice clients. The subjects acted as their own controls and researchers measured each dependent variable (e.g. blood pressure): before the massage intervention, immediately after the massage, and after 5 minutes of resting quietly. The analysis showed that the interventions successfully elicited relaxation. Although the actual clinical changes discussed are modest there is sufficient to suggest real benefits to the patient, while not being great enough to suggest a risk from the massage of bradycardia, hypotension or hypothermia. The patients were aged 80 and over (original article by Meeks appeared in Image. J.Nurs.Sch. 1993;25:17-21). This publication occurred in AACN. Nursing Scan in Critical Care 1993;3:1-2.

Dunn et al reported in 1995, in the Journal of Advanced Nursing (21:34-44), that there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence to support the use of aromatherapy and massage in an intensive care environment, as a means of increasing the quality of sensory input the patients receive, as well as reducing levels of stress and anxiety. They carried out an experimental study in 122 patients who were randomly allocated to receive either massage, aromatherapy using essential oil of lavender, or a period of rest. Both pre- and post-therapy assessments included physiological stress indicators and patient's evaluation of their anxiety levels, mood and ability to cope with their intensive care experiences. Physiological indicators did not alter, but those patients who received aromatherapy reported significant improvement in their mood and perceived levels of anxiety. They also felt less anxious and more positive immediately following therapy.

Resende et al reported on the effects of exercise and abdominal massage on bowel habit in continuing care elderly patients. Episodes of faecal incontinence were significantly decreased, with a significant increase in the number of bowel motions. The number of enemas given was reduced and just one patient took one laxative (Clinical Rehabilitation 1993;7:204-209).

Frazer and Kerr looked at the effects of back massage on anxiety levels of elderly residents in a long-term care institution. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive back massage with normal conversation, conversation only and no intervention. Verbal reports from subjects indicated that they perceived massage as relaxing. It may be an effective, non-invasive technique for promoting relaxation and improving communication with patients. It was recommended that touch be encouraged in caring for the elderly and that further investigation of the effects of such therapies on back massage are indicated (Journal of Advanced Nursing 1993;18:238-245).

Created on: 03/30/2000
Reviewed on: 03/17/2003

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