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Massage therapy probably helps patients with bone cancer

PainSci » bibliography » Jane et al 2011
Tags: treatment, massage, mind, pain, random, manual therapy, modalities

One page on PainSci cites Jane 2011: Does Massage Therapy Work?

PainSci commentary on Jane 2011: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

Does massage therapy help patients with the grinding, deep pain of bone cancer? This Korean study in the journal Pain — nicely randomized, controlled, and just big enough with 72 patients involved — compared the efficacy of massage therapy to “social attention.” That’s a good comparison, because it is likely that being cared for and attended to is one of the most important factors in the perceived (and actual) value of massage therapy. To know if massage itself is the “active ingredient” in massaging cancer patients, it’s got to do better than enjoying a therapist’s sympathetic company. This comparison is rarely done in massage studies, and it should be done more often.

Researchers looked for effects on “pain, mood, muscle relaxation, and sleep quality,” and the results were encouraging across the board. Compared to people who were “just” given social attention, “the reduction in pain with massage was both statistically and clinically significant, and the massage-related effects on relaxation were sustained for at least 16–18 hours post intervention.”

It’s unlikely that the effects were sustained for long after that. Short-lived relief come standard with massage, and it is not an impressive benefit with problems like chronic low back pain where treatment results really need to last to be meaningful. With the severe pain of a serious and possibly fatal disease, however, any real relief is a genuinely big deal to the patient. As an example, such a massage could deliver a patient one of the only and most pleasant moments of their treatment process — or even of the remaining days of life.

It’s noteworthy that the benefits were both “statistically and clinically significant.” As I’ve explained here before, it’s unfortunate how often we see positive experimental results reported as “significant” statistically, but not clinically — meaning the experiment showed a real but trivially minor effect. (See Statistical Significance Abuse: A lot of research makes scientific evidence seem much more “significant” than it is) In this case, the benefits were probably both real and actually worth writing about.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

To date, patients with bony metastases were only a small fraction of the samples studied, or they were entirely excluded. Patients with metastatic cancers, such as bone metastases, are more likely to report pain, compared to patients without metastatic cancer (50-74% and 15%, respectively). Their cancer pain results in substantial morbidity and disrupted quality of life in 34-45% of cancer patients. Massage therapy (MT) appears to have positive effects in patients with cancer; however, the benefits of MT, specifically in patients with metastatic bone pain, remains unknown. The purpose of this randomized clinical trial was to compare the efficacy of MT to a social attention control condition on pain intensity, mood status, muscle relaxation, and sleep quality in a sample (n=72) of Taiwanese cancer patients with bone metastases. In this investigation, MT was shown to have beneficial within- or between-subjects effects on pain, mood, muscle relaxation, and sleep quality. Results from repeated-measures analysis of covariance demonstrated that massage resulted in a linear trend of improvements in mood and relaxation over time. More importantly, the reduction in pain with massage was both statistically and clinically significant, and the massage-related effects on relaxation were sustained for at least 16-18hours postintervention. Furthermore, massage-related effects on sleep were associated with within-subjects effects. Future studies are suggested with increased sample sizes, a longer interventional period duration, and an objective and sensitive measure of sleep. Overall, results from this study support employing MT as an adjuvant to other therapies in improving bone pain management.

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:

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