Children with Cancer and Blood Diseases Experience Positive Physical and Psychological Effects from Massage Therapy

  • Jolie N. Haun University of Arizona, College of Medicine
  • John Graham-Pole University of Florida
  • Brendan Shortley University of Florida


Background: Previous research has reported positive effects of massage therapy (MT) on premature infants, children with asthma, arthritis and other illnesses. Although significant effects have been demonstrated with the use of MT with children, research regarding children with cancer and blood disease is needed. Purpose: This study measured the physical and psychological effects of MT on pediatric oncology and hematology patients. The study hypotheses tested the effects MT for physical and psychological symptom relief. Setting: Cancer Center, Shands Hospital at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Research Design: Randomized non-blinded prospective study. Measures of physical health and mental wellbeing were completed before, during, and after four sessions were implemented. Descriptive statistics and 2 (treatment) X 2 (time) one-way ANOVAs were used to analyze data. Participants: Thirty children with cancer and blood disease, ages 6 months to 17 years old. Intervention: Treatment group received 20 minute sessions of Swedish MT once a day for approximately 4 days (inpatient) or once a week for approximately four weeks (outpatient) vs. no MT for the control group. Results: Treatment group showed significant improvement in both psychological stress [STAI-C: State (F [1, 28] = 24.63, p < .001), Trait (F [1, 28] = 12.83, p < .001) and emotional state (F [1, 28] = 157.79, p < .001)], physical measures [muscle soreness (F [1, 28] = 148.20, p <.001), discomfort (F [1, 28] = 214.97, p <.001) and respiratory rate (F [1, 28] = 33.29, p < .001)], and overall progress (H [1, 28] = 100.00, p < .001), compared with participants in the control group. No significant differences were found between groups on: CHQ-parent form; pulse rate; or blood pressure. Conclusion: MT can reduce mental and physical distress in children with cancer and blood diseases and have a positive impact on their quality of life.

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How to Cite
Haun, J. N., Graham-Pole, J., & Shortley, B. (2009). Children with Cancer and Blood Diseases Experience Positive Physical and Psychological Effects from Massage Therapy. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage &amp; Bodywork: Research, Education, &Amp; Practice, 2(2), 7–14.