Massage Compared with Massage plus Acupuncture for Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Reconstructive Surgery

Christina A. DIlaveri, Ivana T. Croghan, Molly J. Mallory, Liza J. DIon, Karen M. Fischer, Darrell R. Schroeder, Jorys Martinez-Jorge, Minh Doan T. Nguyen, Shawn C. Fokken, Brent A. Bauer, DIetlind L. Wahner-Roedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Integrative therapies have been incorporated increasingly into health and wellness in the United States in recent decades. Their potential benefits are under evaluation in various situations, including pain and symptom relief for cancer patients and survivors. This pilot study evaluated whether combining two integrative complementary approaches augments a patient's benefit by reducing postoperative stress, pain, anxiety, muscle tension, and fatigue compared with one integrative complementary approach alone. Design: Patients undergoing autologous tissue breast reconstruction were randomly assigned to one of two postoperative complementary alternative therapies for three consecutive days. All participants were observed for up to 3 months. Subjects: Forty-two participants were recruited from January 29, 2016 to July 11, 2018. Interventions: Twenty-one participants were randomly assigned to massage alone and 21 to massage and acupuncture. Outcome measures: Stress, anxiety, relaxation, nausea, fatigue, pain, and mood (score 0-10) were measured at enrollment before surgery and postoperative days 1, 2, and 3 before and after the intervention. Patient satisfaction was evaluated. Results: Stress decreased from baseline for both Massage-Only Group and Massage+Acupuncture Group after each treatment intervention. Change in stress score from baseline decreased significantly more in the Massage-Only Group at pretreatment and posttreatment (p = 0.03 and p = 0.04). After adjustment for baseline values, change in fatigue, anxiety, relaxation, nausea, pain, and mood scores did not differ between groups. When patients were asked whether they would recommend the study, 100% (19/19) of Massage-Only Group and 94% (17/18) of Massage+Acupuncture Group responded yes (p = 0.49). Conclusion: No additive beneficial effects were observed with addition of acupuncture to massage for pain, anxiety, relaxation, nausea, fatigue, and mood. Combined massage and acupuncture was not as effective in reducing stress as massage alone, although both groups had significant stress reduction. These findings indicate a need for larger studies to explore these therapies further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-609
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • acupuncture
  • integrative therapy
  • massage
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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