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Massage can ease pain after surgery and may complement the use of drugs for patients, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
In a 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.
All participants got comparable dosages of pain-relieving drugs such as morphine. One-third were not comfortable getting massages, so those who did may have been more appreciative and might have reported more pain relief, the study said.
"The effectiveness of massage in reducing both the intensity and unpleasantness of pain suggests that it may act through more than one mechanism," Allison Mitchinson of the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan wrote in the Archives of Surgery.
"Massage may ameliorate suffering by helping to relieve the anxiety that so effectively synergizes with pain to create distress."