Medical speak and massage for post-op pain relief

December 24, 2007

Sometimes the blindingly obvious seems to pass mainstream medicine by. A recent research project in the USA got funding to run a trial that established that massage can reduce the amount of painkillers patients need after having an operation. Based, I believe, on the well tried and tested old folk remedy of mum rubbing it better after you had fallen off your bike, it is automatic and natural to us to rub where we are hurt. It helps blood flow to the area for faster healing and the therapeutic effect of touch from another human being in a kind and compassionate way will relieve stress so it would seem obvious that massage could be helpful. Indeed several hospitals in the UK employ massage with lavender oil for patients as a means of cutting down on sleeping pill prescriptions and it does appear to be very effective.

The researchers found, as any of us could have told them at a fraction of the cost, that “Pain can affect physical functioning, including the ability to cough and breathe deeply, move, sleep, and perform self-care activities. This may contribute to unintended and serious postoperative complications. Furthermore, ineffective pain relief may result in significant psychological distress.” Being in pain is certainly distressing so along with the bottle of lucozade and bunch of grapes you might want to treat the patient to an in-hospital visit from a qualified masseur – check with the hospital first though to get permission. The study authors concluded, in a wonderful example of how to make a simple statement almost impenetrable, that “massage may potentially be a safer alternative as-needed form of pain relief. With proper training, health care providers at the bedside (especially nurses) may now have a powerful non-pharmacologic tool to directly address their patients’ pain and anxiety.”

In other words massage works, and it’s non addictive.


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