Breast Surgery Patients Report Benefits of Massage Therapy as Part of Recovery Process

February 2, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The International SPA Association Foundation is pleased to report findings from a new study revealing that massage provides stress relief, relaxation and pain relief to patients that have undergone breast surgery. The research was conducted by Barb Thomley, coordinator of outpatient services in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. as the recipient of the 2010 Ruth Stricker Spa and Wellness Award.

“The ISPA Foundation is happy to be a part of research initiatives, like the Ruth Stricker Spa and Wellness Award, that deliver important data for the spa and wellness communities,” said ISPA Foundation President Jeff Kohl. “The more insight we have into the positive effects of spa treatments the more we can educate the public and health care industry to make spa visits part of their wellness routine.”

The Ruth Stricker Spa and Wellness Award is given to stimulate research into the ways that spa can meet current healthcare needs, promote wellness, and enhance quality of life. Thomley’s research initiative evaluated the effect of massage therapy on breast surgery patient’s level of pain, anxiety and tension after surgery. Patients were offered massage a day after their surgery and were surveyed on the effectiveness of the treatment.

How effective was massage therapy in providing:

  • Stress Relief: 76% Very Effective
  • Relaxation: 82% Very Effective
  • Pain Relief: 64% Very Effective and 31% Somewhat Effective
  • General Feeling of Wellness:82% Very Effective

Patients also had the opportunity to respond in the comments section of the study. The comments revealed the following:

  • “My pain was reduced by my massage, it helped more so than that of my pain medications.”
  • “This is a wonderful hands-on therapy that benefits the patient emotionally and physically.”
  • “This is an excellent complement to the standard health care provided by the doctors and nurses.”

Thomley said, “This research has confirmed what we expected massage to show. We know massage and other high-touch integrative therapies have the ability to transform patients’ perceptions of the care they receive during their hospital stay. It is important to continue to study the effects of these therapies and patients’ willingness to pay as we continue to educate healthcare providers and insurance plan providers on the benefits and ability to impact recovery.”

Thomley and Dr. Brent Bauer, the director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic, presented her research findings during the 2011 ISPA Conference & Expo, in a presentation focusing on the science behind massage. During the next phase of the study Thomley will evaluate how aromatherapy take-home kits and pre-loaded MP3 players with guided imagery exercises contribute to patients feeling of wellness once they are discharged from the hospital.

The Ruth Stricker Spa and Wellness Award, named in honor of the founder of The Marsh, a Center for Balance and Fitness in Minneapolis, Minn., offers financial assistance for the purpose of stimulating research and exploration into the various ways that spa can meet current healthcare needs, promote wellness, and enhance quality of life. The award will support a project that demonstrates a unique or unrecognized benefit of spa in promoting wellness. For more information on the Ruth Stricker Spa & Wellness Award visit

About the ISPA Foundation

Created in 1999 to serve the educational and research needs of the spa industry through endowments, curriculum development and scholarships, the ISPA Foundation is the nonprofit 501(c)3 arm of ISPA. The ISPA Foundation’s mission is to improve and enhance the value of the spa experience while supporting its vision of sustainable health and well-being through the advancement of spa culture. For more information on the ISPA Foundation and opportunities for involvement, please visit

Scroll to Top