Massage therapy involves the manipulation of the soft-tissue with various hand movements (e.g., rubbing, kneading, pressing, rolling, slapping, tapping). Massage therapy can elicit a relaxation response as measured by decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. Often, massage is complemented with aromatherapy (i.e., essential oils combined with a carrier cream or oil to manipulate the soft tissues). Aromatherapy has been used together with massage in some studies. An aromatherapy massage is massage therapy delivered by a therapist while aromatherapy oils are administered by inhalation. Massage with or without aromatherapy has been studied in patients with cancer for management of anxiety, caregiver strain and burden, constipation, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, depression, lymphedema, pain, sleep-wake disturbances, and fatigue.
Lai, T.K., Cheung, M.C., Lo, C.K., Ng, K.L., Fung, Y.H., Tong, M., & Yau, C.C. (2011). Effectiveness of aroma massage on advanced cancer patients with constipation: A pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17, 37–43.
To evaluate the effectiveness of aroma massage in the treatment of constipation, as well as its impact on quality of life (QOL).
Patients were randomized to one of three groups: aroma abdominal massage, plain abdominal massage, or control. Fifteen- to 20-minute massages were offered daily for five consecutive days by the principal investigator and four other trained investigators. Patients completed questionnaires on days 1 and 5. Patients were withdrawn from the study if they required increased use of laxatives, had symptoms such as shortness of breath or fatigue, or were transferred or discharged from the hospital.
This was a randomized controlled trial.
Constipation is a common, preventable problem in patients with cancer. Nurses should have knowledge of alternative nonpharmacologic approaches to help patients manage this side effect.
Nurses play a vital role in the treatment and prevention of constipation.