Therapeutic massage can be performed in a variety of settings, including hospitals and hospices.
Massage in the Hospital
Massage therapy can reduce pain levels in hospitalized patients. It could also help them sleep, and it decreases the stress of hospitalization. Patients can have control over their massage treatment, which is often a contrast to the rest of the hospital care experience. Massage may be “very calming” to the patients. Studies have shown that massage can help cancer patients with mood and comfort, and it may also be beneficial for other medical conditions.1 In some countries, alternative “touch therapy” is increasingly considered to be complementary to “conventional medicine”. Head trauma patients, and those with respiratory failure, may find that massage can stimulate circulation and reduce blood pressure, for example. A recent study has shown that aromatherapy massage in the ICU can reduce anxiety. Massage and aromatherapy have also been shown to give a “significant psychological benefit” to cardiac patients after their surgery. Another study demonstrated that children and adults with depression have improved mood after massage therapy sessions. Massage can improve relaxation and help people who suffer from panic attacks, as well. During childbirth, massaging the lower backs, feet, and hands can reduce the amount of medication needed by the patients due to the endorphin release caused by the therapy. Oxytocin, which controls contractions of the uterus in labor, also increases from touch. A study showed that massage can reduce labor time, decrease leg and lower back pain, and increase sleep. Cancer patients have also reported less anxiety and pain due to massage. Massage may also help patients who are facing surgery. Aromatherapy is particularly helpful in relaxation and reducing respiration, irritability, and anxiety.2
Hospice Massage Therapy
Hospice is a special type of care that “focuses on the palliation of a terminally…or seriously ill patient’s pain”, while it also assists with the spiritual and emotional needs of the patient. Typically, hospice care might be in the patient’s home, or it can be in a nursing home or hospital.3 Massage can play a role in the quality of life. Since pain control is part of hospice care, massage can reduce the need for narcotics. It could also reduce the stress levels in patients. Another benefit of massage for patients who are bedridden is that it may prevent pressure sores (bed sores), which are “skin ulcerations…over bony areas of the body”. Improving circulation in these parts of the body and changing the patient’s position are ways that massage therapists can help patients. They can also alert medical staff to problem areas on the body. Moisturizing lotions are also useful to alleviate the dry and itchy skin that medications and immobility can cause. Massage aims to improve the mood of the patient, who may have fear, guilt, depression, anxiety, and anger.4 Therapists tailor the treatment to the special needs of the individual, changing the patient’s position and level of pressure as needed. Massage therapy could be a part of the holistic treatment of the patient, coordinating with other medical and CAM (complementary and alternative) therapies.5