A new study has said that a soothing massage can help provide consolation after the death of a loved one.
The study has been published in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
Eighteen people who had lost a relative to cancer took part in the study. Participants ranged from 34 to 78 years of age and included widows, widowers, daughters and sisters. Nine chose foot massage, eight chose hand massage and one asked for both. Only three had previous experience of soft tissue massage.
"Details about the massage study were included in an information pack provided by the palliative care team when people's relatives died" says lead author Dr Berit S Cronfalk from the Stockholms Sjukhem Foundation, a Swedish palliative care provider.
Relatives were offered a 25-minute hand or foot massage once a week for eight weeks and could choose whether the sessions took place at home, work or at the hospital.
"Soft tissue massage is gentle, but firm," explains Dr Cronfalk, who carried out the research with colleagues from the Karolinska Institutet. "This activates touch receptors which then release oxytocin, a hormone known for its positive effects on well-being and relaxation.
"In this study the hand or foot massage was done with slow strokes, light pressure and circling movements using oil lightly scented with citrus or hawthorn.
"The relatives were then encouraged to relax for a further 30 minutes."
Baseline data was collected on the participants during a 60-minute interview before the programme started and a further 60-minute interview was conducted a week after the massage programme finished.
The interviews with the participants showed that they derived considerable benefits from the programme.