The recovery period after a serious operation can be a time of extreme discomfort for patients. Being confined to a hospital bed can lead to muscle pain and general discomfort, and it’s also common for patients to experience a certain amount of pain and sensitivity around the incision site after surgery. In addition, energy levels among postoperative patients are usually low, and the stress of the experience can lead to a heightened sense of anxiety.
Massage therapy can provide postoperative patients with much needed relief when integrated into their recovery process, reducing pain, promoting relaxation, and improving general well-being. However, patients in the early stages of postoperative recovery can be especially fragile, and it’s vital that a registered massage therapist carefully evaluates their condition, tailoring their treatments to provide a safe, comforting, and gentle experience that will enhance the healing process.
A number of studies have shown the effectiveness of massage therapy in providing pain relief for patients in postoperative recovery. For instance, a 2003 trial involving patients recovering from abdominal surgery showed a distinct reduction in their levels of discomfort after receiving a daily 45 minute Swedish massage for three days following surgery.
Additional research has also shown further benefits of incorporating a massage therapy program into the recovery process. A 2004 study on patients who had undergone breast cancer surgery showed improvements in immune and neuroendocrine functions, with patients also reporting reduced feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as improved body image and increased feelings of vigor.
Anxiety, pain from surgical incision, and general discomfort from spending prolonged periods in bed can also lead to sleep disruption among postoperative patients. A 2010 study in Brazil found that massage performed on the back, neck, and shoulders 2-3 hours before sleep led to a significant improvement in the sleep quality of patients recovering from cardiopulmonary artery bypass graft surgery.
Later research on American pediatric patients who had undergone hematopoietic cell transplants also showed that a therapeutic massage program could promote restful sleep, this time by integrating Swedish massage. As an added benefit, the parents of the children involved were also taught techniques to administer the massages themselves.
Once you become a RMT, you’ll find that providing effective postoperative treatment is not without its challenges. It can be difficult creating a relaxing, comfortable environment in a hospital setting, and you also need to keep in mind that the patient may have limited tolerance for massage while recovering from surgery. Nonetheless, with careful planning, it is possible to create a beneficial treatment program.
In a trial conducted by the Mayo clinic in a busy thoracic surgery practice, the RMTs used a number of different techniques on patients, including myofascial release, craniosacral therapy and Swedish massage, tailoring their treatment based on each patient’s symptoms and tolerance.
The therapists modified the pace and pressure of massages to avoid bruising or causing negative effects on blood pressure or heart rate, while also taking care to angle strokes in order to avoid pulling on the incision site. Results showed that the treatment provided significant pain relief for patients, as well as improving relaxation and promoting deeper breathing.
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