Six studies were included in the review (1,875 patients): three randomised controlled trials (576 patients), one quasi-experimental study (1,235 patients) and two observational studies (64 patients). The results of the quality assessment were not reported.
Reduction of pain (five studies): Statistically significant reductions in pain were reported in four studies and in one study the effects lasted up to 18 hours. Results of three studies indicated that massage therapy was more effective in patients with strong pain perception.
Reduction of anxiety (three studies): Physical relaxation was associated with immediate and lasting effects on anxiety (three studies) but anxiety was not well defined. Significant reductions in perceived anxiety were reported following full body massage (one study), hand massage (one study) and gentle touch/full body massage (one study).
Reduction of depression (two studies): Both studies found improvements in depressive mood. Gentle touch massage showed more favourable results than foot massage but no differences were reported when compared with full body massage (one study).
There were no reported negative effects of massage therapy.