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Keywords:

  • complementary therapy;
  • massage;
  • relaxation;
  • coronary artery bypass graft;
  • wellbeing;
  • randomized controlled trial

The impact of foot massage and guided relaxation following cardiac surgery: a randomized controlled trial

Background. Because of the widely presumed association between heart disease and psychological wellbeing, the use of so-called ‘complementary’ therapies as adjuncts to conventional treatment modalities have been the subject of considerable debate. The present study arose from an attempt to identify a safe and effective therapeutic intervention to promote wellbe ing, which could be practicably delivered by nurses to patients in the postoperative recovery period following coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Aim. To investigate the impact of foot massage and guided relaxation on the wellbeing of patients who had undergone CABG surgery.

Method. Twenty-five subjects were randomly assigned to either a control or one of two intervention groups. Psychological and physical variables were measured immediately before and after the intervention. A discharge questionnaire was also administered.

Results. No significant differences between physiological parameters were found. There was a significant effect of the intervention on the calm scores (ANOVA, P=0·014). Dunnett’s multiple comparison showed that this was attributable to increased calm among the massage group. Although not significant the guided relaxation group also reported substantially higher levels of calm than control. There was a clear (nonsignificant) trend across all psychological variables for both foot massage and, to a lesser extent, guided relaxation to improve psychological wellbeing. Both interventions were well received by the subjects.

Conclusions. These interventions appear to be effective, noninvasive techniques for promoting psychological wellbeing in this patient group. Further investigation is indicated.