The Healing Potential of Back Massage


  • Donna M. Gauthier RN, MSN

    1. Donna M. Gauthier, RN, MSN, is a doctoral student at the University of Texas Medical Branch, School of Nursing, 301 University Blvd, Galveston, TX 77555, E-mail: and an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Galveston College School of Nursing, 4015 Ave. Q, Galveston, TX 77550. Telephone: 409-763-6551, ext. 379; Fax: 409-762-9367.
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  • The author wishes to acknowledge the valuable manuscript review provided by Mary Jane Bernier, RN, PhD, at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Nursing Doctoral Program, in Galveston, Texas.


(1) The experience of illness and/or hospitalization often elicits a stress response which may manifest as sleep disturbances, increased heart rate, increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, anxiety and general discomfort. The diagnosis and treatment of a person's response to illness or other event is key tenet of nursing. The well-established nursing intervention, back rub or back massage, has been utilized as a time-honored comfort measure. This research review summarizes the studies that have evaluated the effect of massage on psychophysiologic outcome measures. Research demonstrates that back massage has the ability to elicit a relaxation response in the majority of study subjects.