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Efficacy of Massage Therapy at the End of Life

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Relief of physical and emotional symptoms is a key component of end-of-life care. However, there is a significant burden of unrelieved symptoms among terminally ill patients. Individuals with advanced cancer often suffer from multiple symptoms; the pharmacologic interventions used for alleviation of one symptom may exacerbate other symptoms. Studies of the efficacy of therapies that have potential to mediate these symptoms deserve our highest priority. For these reasons, the goal of this application is to evaluate the efficacy of massage therapy for alleviation of symptom distress and improvement of quality of life for patients with advanced cancer who are receiving hospice/palliative care. The specific aim of this study is to demonstrate the efficacy of massage therapy for treatment of pain, reduction of physical and emotional symptom distress, and improvement of quality of life among cancer patients at the end of life. This will be a multi-site randomized clinical trial comparing massage therapy plus usual hospice care with a control group receiving "non-moving touch" plus usual hospice care. The study will be conducted in a community-based hospice/palliative care research network. Data will be collected at baseline, immediately preceding and following each intervention (massage therapy) or control (non-moving touch) session, and weekly for the three weeks of each patient's participation in the study. Analyses will determine the independent influence of the intervention (a series of massage therapy sessions) on the identified outcomes (pain, physical and emotional symptom distress, quality of life).
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