Massage Therapy May be Safe and Reduce Pain in Critically Ill Patients with Acute Neurological Injury: a Case Control Study
Purpose: Massage therapy is an important adjunctive treatment for physiologic and psychologic symptoms and has been shown to benefit patients among a wide variety of patient populations.
Setting: Few studies have investigated the utility of massage therapy in the general ICU setting, and even fewer have done so in the neurological ICU (NeuroICU).
Research Design: If massage therapy was determined to improve objective outcomes—or even subjective outcomes in the absence of harm—massage may be more readily employed as a complementary therapy, particularly in the ICU setting or in patients with acute neuro-logical injury.
Intervention: This pilot study aimed to assess the safety of massage in the neurocritical care unit and its impact on patient vital signs, subjective pain assessment, and other clinical outcomes.
Participants: Twenty-one patients who received massage therapy during admission to the neurocritical care service were compared to matched controls in a retrospective case control study design.
Results: We found a statistically significant reduction in pain scores among patients with acute neurological injury who received massage therapy. There was no statistical difference in hospital length of stay, discharge destination, in-hospital mortality, adverse events, or incidence/duration of delirium between patients who received massage therapy and those who did not. No adverse events were ascribed to the massage therapy when evaluated by blinded neurocritical care specialists.
Conclusion: This study found that massage therapy may be safe for many patients in the NeuroICU and may offer additional subjective benefits.
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