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Massage may help relieve postoperative pain
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A US study shows that massage therapy may help relieve acute postoperative pain in patients who have major surgery, media reports said Tuesday.

"In patients getting massage, the acute response was equivalent to a dose of morphine, which was pretty remarkable," said study senior author Dr. Daniel B. Hinshaw, professor of surgery and a member of the palliative care team at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan.

In the study of 605 men 64 years and older who had major surgery, 200 received nightly 20-minute back massages for four days. On a scale of 1 to 10, those who got massages reported their pain diminished one level faster than those who did not.

Study limitations include virtually all participants being elderly men; potential self-selection bias because patients who did not want to be touched refused to participate; and inability to perform dose-response interventions.

According to the study, "the rate of decline was faster by about a day for patients in the massage group," he said. Patients also experienced short-term declines in anxiety following massage.

But the study found no differences in longer-term patient anxiety, length of hospital stay or the amount of pain-relieving medication used among the three groups.

Massage will now become part of the post-surgical routine at the Ann Arbor facility and related VA facilities in the region, Hinshaw said. His group is exploring its use to reduce the incidence and length of delirium experienced after surgery. Delirium, which is difficult to treat, can often lengthen the time spent in the hospital after surgery, he said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development supported this study.

(Agencies via Xinhua December 18, 2007)

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