acute care, distress, massage therapy, pain management



  1. Thompson, Angela PT, DPT
  2. Wilson, Marian MPH, RN-BC
  3. James, Toni MSN, CNL, CHPN
  4. Symbal, Jessica BSN, RN
  5. Izumi, Seiko PhD, RN


Pain is a significant problem in acute health care settings and has consistently been found to be poorly managed. Furthermore, hospitalized patients are becoming more complex, and health care dollars, more scarce. Nurses at the bedside have a unique opportunity to affect these issues. Although pharmacological tools are used extensively to address pain in acute care settings, there is a gap in understanding how nondrug approaches can be included to manage pain and its accompanying distress. This article details the findings of a feasibility study initiated in a 250-bed, community-owned hospital in the northwestern United States. The purpose was to determine whether massage could be delivered by registered nurses in an acute care setting. Nurses were invited to participate in a class to learn massage techniques and were asked to incorporate their skills during normal work hours and within their usual work assignment. Data were collected on patients' reported pain and distress levels before and after 22 massage encounters. Nurses were asked to give feedback on the encounters and report on barriers and observed benefits. Patients reported favorable responses to the massages with reduced levels of pain and distress. In addition, the nurses providing the massages described personal benefit from performing the massage.