On their feet for long hours and having to cope with ever-increasing patient loads, demanding schedules, paperwork, follow-up, and other responsibilities can exact a heavy toll on nurses. Work-related stress and related symptoms is often the result.
Massage therapy is one approach that may provide a reduction in stress and symptoms associated with it, including headaches, shoulder tension, insomnia, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain.
Massage Therapy For Work-Related Stress
Research published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice looked at the feasibility and effect of 15-minute weekly chair massages on during the work hours of 38 nurses. The pilot study tracked the Mean Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-14), Smith Anxiety Scale (SAS), linear analog self-assessment scale (LASA), and symptom visual analog scale (SX-VAS) tracked the nurses’ scores at baseline, 5 weeks, and 10 weeks.
During the study, a total of 400 massage appointments were available ad 329 were used. The results of the study showed that massages for nurses during work hours reduced stress-related symptoms.
“This study affirms the important role massage therapy can play in the work setting, in this case to ease stress for health care providers who, in turn, can better provide optimal patient care,” said Winona Bontrager, president of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).
Massage Assisting with Medical Conditions
Nurses, as well as other medical and mental health professionals and American consumers are gravitating toward incorporating massage therapy into their regular health and wellness regimens to assist with medical conditions, according to AMTA’s 17th annual consumer survey (conducted in August 2013).
- 83 percent of individuals view massage therapy as being beneficial to overall health and wellness
- 88 percent believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain
- 75 percent of consumers surveyed said that their primary reason for receiving a massage was medical (43 percent) or stress (32 percent)
- 53 percent said their doctor recommended they get a massage
Previous research expanded on prior studies demonstrating the effectiveness of massage therapy for chronic low back pain – a condition affecting millions of Americans, nurses included. Researchers found that “patients receiving massage were twice as likely as those receiving usual care to report significant improvements in both their pain and function.
Participants had a one-hour massage once a week for 10 weeks. Patients receiving massage also said they reduced the amount of over-the-counter (OTC) and anti-inflammatory medications they took. The study compared both relaxation massage and structural massage therapy and found no difference in the results from the type of massage given.
The authors concluded that massage therapy may be effective for the treatment of chronic back pain, with benefits lasting at least 6 months.
Other benefits of massage therapy from various studies finds that the therapeutic practice can help control pain in people suffering from certain conditions, including metastatic cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, post-cardiac surgery pain, and can also be effective for osteoarthritis of the knee, inflammation after exercise, and fibromyalgia.
In addition to helping reduce symptoms of stress and controlling pain, regular monthly massage provides benefits including:
- Increased circulation
- Stimulation of lymph system to help fight off invaders
- Release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller
- Improving range of motion and decreasing discomfort from lower back pain
- Relaxes and softens injuries and overused muscles
- Reduces cramping and muscle spasms
- Increases the flexibility of joints
- Provides relief of pain for migraine sufferers and decreases the need for medication
- Reduces the recovery time after strenuous workouts and eliminates subsequent risk for muscle strain
- Shortens labor, reduces the need for medication and assists in quicker recovery in pregnant women
- Reduces post-op edema and adhesions, as well as reducing and realigning scar tissue once healing has occurred.
Bottom line: If nurses have the availability of 10-minute massage sessions while working, it may provide a quick and effective way to help manage work-related stress. Beyond work, however, regular (weekly) therapeutic massage can provide a multitude of benefits to physical and mental health and improve overall well-being.