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Tactile massage reduces rescue doses for pain and anxiety: an observational study
  1. Karina Pedersen1 and
  2. Linda Björkhem-Bergman1,2
  1. 1 Palliative Home Care and Hospice Ward, ASIH Stockholm Södra, Långbro Park, Bergtallsvägen, Sweden
  2. 2 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Division of Clinical Microbiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Linda Björkhem-Bergman, Department of Palliative Medicine and Advanced Medical Home Care, ASIH Stockholm Södra, Långbro park, Bergtallsvägen 12, 125 59 Älvsjö, Sweden; linda.bjorkhem-bergman{at}


Objectives The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of tactile massage (TM) on palliative care patients.

Method An observational study at a hospice ward in Sweden was carried out. Forty-one palliative patients were offered TM, at an average of three treatments per patient. Before and after every treatment, self-assessed pain, well-being and anxiety according to the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (0–10) were recorded. In addition, the number of rescue doses for pain and anxiety was monitored 24 hours before and after the treatment and in two consecutive days before the patients were offered TM (control data).

Results TM resulted in improvement of self-assessed pain by 1.7 points (SD 1.6), anxiety by 2.3 points (SD 2.0) and well-being by 2.6 points (SD 1.4). The number of rescue doses for pain was reduced from 1.6 to 0.84 doses/patient (P<0.001) and for anxiety from 0.52 to 0.24 doses/patient (P<0.01). The number of rescue doses was not changed in the same patients in two consecutive days before the patients were offered TM. The effect was evident already after the first treatment and did not increase further with repeated treatments. No patients reported any harmful effects of the treatment.

Conclusion TM reduced the need for administration of rescue doses for pain and anxiety and improved well-being in palliative care patients. Larger randomised studies with parallel control groups are needed to confirm the findings from this observational pilot study.

  • hospice care
  • complementary therapy
  • pain
  • anxiety
  • well-being

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  • Funding Financial support was provided through the Regional Agreement on Training and Clinical Research (ALF) between Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm County Council, The Swedish Cancer Society, Karolinska Institutet and ‘Gåvofonden’ at ASIH Stockholm Södra.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The Regional Ethical Review Board in Stockholm, Sweden (Dnr: 2015/2325-31/2).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The original data are available from the corresponding author upon request.