Massage modalities and symptoms reported by cancer patients: Narrative review

Cynthia D. Myers, Tracy Walton, Lindsay Bratsman, Jennifer Wilson, Brent Small

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The results of several studies on the use of massage therapies for cancer patients have been published in the peer-reviewed literature over the past 20 years. The current article provides a summary and critique of published studies in which patient-reported symptom ratings were assessed in relation to massage. Twenty-two studies are discussed. Most studies were on Swedish massage, followed by aromatherapy massage, foot reflexology, and acupressure. Symptoms assessed as outcomes included pain, fatigue, anxiety, nausea, and depression. Study designs included uncontrolled observational studies, crossover designs, and quasiexperimental and randomized controlled studies. Several studies included methodologic limitations such as small sample sizes, lack of blinded assessment, lack of accounting for subject attrition in statistical analyses, and other limitations. The results of the studies reviewed are mixed and vary as a function of several study characteristics. The most consistent symptom reduction was anxiety reduction. Additional well-designed studies are needed. Several recommendations are offered for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Society for Integrative Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Acupressure
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage
  • Reflexology
  • Touch


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