Massage Therapy Effects on Pain and Distress/Anxiety in Breast Cancer Patients

Tanya Brigitte Buchrieser, Walden University


Pain and distress/anxiety are likely to result from breast cancer and/or the medical treatment associated with this illness. Breast cancer researchers have focused on massage therapy and its influence on pain and distress in breast cancer patients; however, these research efforts were limited by small sample sizes, homogeneous populations, and small to medium effect sizes. This study explores the effectiveness of massage therapy for decreasing pain and distress in a larger, heterogeneous population of breast cancer patients and across all durations and frequencies of treatment by pooling the findings of former studies. The gate control theory which relates to the experience of pain, the psychotherapy theory which suggests massage acts much like psychotherapy, and the physical touch theory all suggest that massage may decrease pain and distress/anxiety. In order to be included in the meta-analysis, the study needed to be printed in English between the years 2004 and 2012, use the same variables and same method of treatment, and report an effect size or statistics that allowed for effect size calculation. The meta-analysis was quantitative and the effect sizes for each study were calculated using Comprehensive Meta-Analysis (CMA) software. CMA also calculated the overall pooled effect size. Findings indicated that individual studies showed some improvements in pain and distress after receiving treatment; however, when pooled, the results indicated that massage therapy did not significantly improve levels of pain and distress in breast cancer patients. Although findings were non significant, the use of massage therapy improved symptoms of pain and distress in breast cancer patients.