Patient Referral
Employee Referral
Make A Donation

Hospice Patients Can Benefit From Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be relaxing and comforting for all ages, but hospice patients in particular can benefit immensely from this form of therapy that has been proven to provide significant improvement for pain, anxiety and health-related quality of life for those who need to manage their pain, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. With National Massage Therapy Awareness Week coming up on October 21 to 27, we thought it would be appropriate to highlight the benefits of massage for those dealing with pain in hospice in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Pain is actually a major public health concern, impacting an estimated 100 million Americans. Several studies have been done on massage therapy and concluded that it can be helpful in managing pain resulting from cancer, mental health disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, HIV and more.

Benefits of Massage Therapy in Hospice

Massage therapy is a nurturing part of the dying experience, for many reasons, including the following:

  • Dying is part of living: Those fighting for their lives in hospice for weeks and months know how taxing the battle is. The treatments and medications designed to relieve pain can be somewhat effective, but can also place additional strain on the body. Hospice massage acts as a natural treatment that can help patients get peace, points out Massage Magazine.
  • Touch is a universal language: Full-blown massage treatments may no longer be possible at the very end of life when the patient is in a fragile state. However, even at this stage, there’s something called attentive touch that can ease discomfort wherever it is needed. This may take the form of a gentle foot massage or scalp massage, for example. Whatever the case may be, attentive touch can reduce stress and anxiety, allowing the patient to relax fully.
  • A healing presence: The ability to just be present for the patient is the goal of hospice massage therapists, serving as anchors for family members and other caregivers through undivided attention met with a transformative response of calm and trust.
  • Stability: The physical benefits from touch include stabilized heart rate, lower blood pressure, endorphin release, a feeling of being cared for, and eased depression, fear and anxiety.

Recent Studies

AMTA maintains a position that massage therapy indeed improves the quality of life for those in hospice and palliative care. Recent studies have shown that massage therapy is one of the most frequently offered complementary therapies in hospice and palliative care. The quality of life for those in hospice care is often compromised. Research has shown that massage therapy can provide comfort and relaxation, as well as alleviate these symptoms and conditions:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Stress
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Why is positive touch so powerful? It is rooted in the tactile experiences we develop at birth, with touch being the first sensation that welcomes us into this world. It stands to reason that these should be the last perceptions we have when we leave this world. Touch has been found to raise the blood pressure of people in a deep coma. Or, it can penetrate the nonverbal state of Alzheimer’s patients who may blurt out a cohesive sentence while receiving massage to the effect of “that feels good,” only to go right back to their silent world. Touch can penetrate the semi-comatose state people experience when on severe painkillers to give the overall treatment an element of human contact. Many times, patients reduce their demand for drugs when receiving massage therapy.

The type of massage therapy for hospice patients is different from the standard approach. Massage therapists would use geriatric massage techniques focused on the amelioration of pain, instead of using the vigorous approaches of deep tissue work or acupressure.

What Happens During a Massage Therapy Session

When a patient received massage, the muscles and soft tissues relax, to be sure, but their entire well-being and spirit has a chance to release anxiety and just be present in the moment, says the Mayo Clinic. When patients are able to relax, pain is lessened and a sense of well-being has a chance to take over, allowing the patient to experience greater peace and ability to cope with what lies ahead. Massage involves caring, safe touch — an invitation to relax, if you will.

This, together with pain relief, produces a “relaxation response,” where the heart and breathing rates slow, blood pressure goes down, production of stress hormones decreases, and muscles relax, according to the University of Minnesota. The relaxation response also increases the available level of serotonin, a chemical in the body that affects emotions and thoughts. It may also decrease the physical effects of stress and the risks that come with it, such as anxiety, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, insomnia, fatigue, digestive disorders and psychological issues.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Our hospice care team knows the value of massage therapy in the hospice setting. To learn more about our services, please contact us at 888-755-7855