Symptom Management with Massage and Acupuncture in Postoperative Cancer Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Publication University of California, San Francisco

Wolf E. Mehling, Bradly Jacobs, Michael Acree, Leslie Wilson, Alan Bostrom, Jeremy West, Joseph Acquah, Beverly Burns, Jnani Chapman, Frederick M. Hecht.

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 Mar;33(3):258-66


The level of evidence for the use of acupuncture and massage for the management of perioperative symptoms in cancer patients is encouraging but inconclusive. We conducted a randomized, controlled trial assessing the effect of massage and acupuncture added to usual care vs. usual care alone in postoperative cancer patients. Cancer patients undergoing surgery were randomly assigned to receive either massage and acupuncture on postoperative Days 1 and 2 in addition to usual care, or usual care alone, and were followed over three days. Patients’ pain, nausea, vomiting, and mood were assessed at four time points. Data on health care utilization were collected. Analyses were done by mixed-effects regression analyses for repeated measures. One hundred fifty of 180 consecutively approached cancer patients were eligible and consented before surgery. Twelve patients rescheduled or declined after surgery, and 138 patients were randomly assigned in a 2:1 scheme to receive massage and acupuncture (n = 93) or to receive usual care only (n = 45). Participants in the intervention group experienced a decrease of 1.4 points on a 0–10 pain scale, compared to 0.6 in the control group (P = 0.038), and a decrease in depressive mood of 0.4 (on a scale of 1–5) compared to ±0 in the control group (P = 0.003). Providing massage and acupuncture in addition to usual care resulted in decreased pain and depressive mood among postoperative cancer patients when compared with usual care alone. These findings merit independent confirmation using larger sample sizes and attention control.