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‘Rubbing it better really does work’

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What did the media say?

The media reported that motherly advice to rub aches and pains better could well be true, and that gentle touching can reduce pain and stress as well as just soothing bumps and bruises.

What did the research show?

Researchers at the Centre for Complementary Care at Muncaster in Cumbria looked at questionnaire data on 300 clients who visited the centre with a wide variety of ailments. Each client received four, one-hour treatment sessions over a six-week period.

They claimed that, between study entry and end of treatment, there were significant improvements in psychological and physical functioning.

For example, median stress levels fell by four points, according to the Wilcoxon signed ranks test, and pain relief by two points. Ability to cope increased by three points and general health ratings by 20 points.

Initial findings from the study, press released last week, were first published in the journal Public Health in 2005.

Further sub-group analysis suggests the results were best for those with the most severe symptoms, such as cancer, musculo-skeletal ailments and mental health disorders.

However, the study did not include a control group to compare the intervention against.

What did the researchers say?

Heather Leathard, professor of healing science and pharmacology, said: ‘On the basis of this sound evidence, healing by gentle touch should play a part in the treatment of people with cancer, mental health problems, or a wide variety of illnesses where help with pain or stress reduction will enhance their wellbeing.

‘It is very definitely complementary to conventional medicine and not a replacement,’ she added.

What does this mean for nursing practice?

Public Health (2007) 119: 3-10

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