ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A new Mayo Clinic study shows that massage therapy decreases pain levels for patients after heart surgery. During a five-month period in 2005, 58 patients undergoing surgery participated in a pilot study to examine the effect of massage on pain after surgery. Of the 30 who received massage, the mean pain scores were less than 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as the most painful.
Before the massage therapy, these patients rated their pain at an average of 3 on a 10-point scale. In the control group of 28, pain levels remained the same over the same period, according to findings published in the current edition of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.
As a result of the pilot study, Mayo now has a full-time massage therapist available for patients after heart surgery, and a larger, randomized study is under way.
Mayo Clinic's cardiovascular surgery group began looking at complementary therapies in 2004. "In surveys, we started to hear from patients that tension, stress, pain and anxiety hampered their recovery," says Susanne Cutshall, a registered nurse in Mayo Clinics cardiovascular surgery group and lead author of the study.
A team of nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, pharmacists and hospital administrators listened to patients' concerns, searched the literature and visited other hospitals. The result was the Healing Enhancement Program for cardiac surgery patients. It offers massage, music and guided imagery. The program combines evidence-based conventional care and evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), Cutshall says.
"Our goal was to look at the patient's mind, body and spirit experience," Cutshall says. "We knew long ago that our patients had stress and pain, but it had been seen as a normal part of the process. Today, patients speak up more, and we recognize its not enough to fix the heart; we have to treat the whole patient. These therapies don't take the
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