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Old 12-19-2007, 11:47 AM
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Default Massage May Promote Surgical Healing (and More)

If you know someone who's getting ready to go into surgery, consider holding off on the get-well-soon balloons, and start looking for a good massage therapist instead. A new study published in the December issue of the American Medical Association's Archives of Surgery found that massage, in conjunction with regular pain medication, significantly improved patient pain and anxiety after major surgery.

The study, which was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and lasted from 2003 to 2005, involved 605 veterans — most of whom were white men with an average age of 64, who had chest or abdominal surgery.

All patients received routine postoperative care. Two experimental groups, however, received additional individual attention from a massage therapist:

One group got a 20-minute visit, during which the patient and the therapist talked but no massage was given, and another group received a 20-minute back massage for up to five days following their operations.

The massage group, the study found, reported markedly less intense and less unpleasant pain and less anxiety than patients who got standard pain medication or individual attention but no massage.

Dr. Daniel Hinshaw, a surgeon in the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and one of the study's co-authors, says that when asked a day after surgery, some patients reported that massage delivered about as much pain relief as a dose from a morphine drip.

Hinshaw suggests that massage functions by creating a competing sensation to block pain or by generating endorphin-like chemicals in the body, which reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being. He also notes the crucial — and often forgotten — role of touch in medicine: Human touch can help alleviate anxiety and ease pain. "Patients crave contact," says Hinshaw. "They want some kind of comforting presence."
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