Impact of Massage Therapy on the Quality of Life of Hospice Patients and Their Caregivers: A Pilot Study

Rachel D. Havyer, Maria I. Lapid, Travis J. Dockter, Shaylene A. McCue, Amy J. Stelpflug, Maureen L. Bigelow, Mary Meg Robsahm, Theresa Elwood, Jacob J. Strand, Brent A. Bauer, Susanne M. Cutshall, Jeff A. Sloan, Monica P. Walton, Kevin J. Whitford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence for massage therapy (MT) in hospice patients remains limited. We conducted a prospective pilot study on MTs impact on quality of life of hospice patients and caregivers. Patient-caregiver dyads were enrolled if patients scored ≥5 on pain, depression, anxiety, or well-being using the revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment System Revised (ESAS-r). The patient received MT weekly for up to 3 massages with assessments completed at baseline, after each massage, and 1 week after the final massage for patients and at baseline and 1 week after final massage for caregivers. A satisfaction survey was completed at study completion. A pro-rated area under the curve (AUC) was utilized to assess the primary endpoints of change in ESAS-r for patient ratings of pain, depression and anxiety as well as the Linear Analogue Self-Assessment (LASA). Median difference scores (end of study value)-(baseline value) for each participant and caregiver were calculated. Of 27 patients and caregivers enrolled, 25 patients received MT. Fifteen patients completed all 3 MT sessions and were given the final symptom assessment and satisfaction survey and their caregivers completed final assessments. The proportion of patients considered success (AUC > baseline) in the primary endpoints were the following: pain 40.9%, depression 40.9%, anxiety 54.5%, LASA 54.5%. Median difference scores were largely zero indicating no significant temporal change in symptoms. Patients were highly satisfied with MT. This pilot study indicated that MT was a feasible and well-received intervention in our population of patients with inadequately controlled symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of palliative care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • family caregivers
  • hospice
  • integrative medicine
  • massage therapy
  • palliative care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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