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Benefits of Massage Therapy for Nurses


All I want for Christmas is…… a relaxing massage and a nap!

Nurses suffer from back pain, neck pain, stress and anxiety on a daily basis. A relaxing massage might just be the trick to rejuvenate and energize a worn down nurse during this holiday season.

The Stressed out Nurse:

With demanding schedules and work loads, nurses are under more stress than ever! This work-related stress takes a physical and mental toll in every facet of their lives. According to a 2016 study that examined 120 nurses from a Midwestern Hospital in the United States, they found that “92% of nurses had moderate, high or very high levels of work-related stress”.

This stress may lead to health issues, negative coping behaviors and poor work performance. All of which can result in workplace burn-out, for a dedicated nursing professional.


The demand for skilled nurses and their possible “burn-out”:

Nurse burn-out is different than stress. As explained by Cinch in their July 2018 article, “stress is usually felt when someone is over engaged, while burnout is the extreme emotional and physical effects caused by stress”.

In 2017, Kronos, Inc. conducted a survey regarding the burn-out rate for nurses and discovered the following:

  • 98% of nurses say that the work of a nurse is both physically and mentally demanding
  • 93% state that at the end of a typical day, they are mentally and/or physically tired
  • 4 out of 5 nurses say they find it hard to balance mind, body and spirit
  • 85% note that their work causes them to be fatigued overall, with resulting consequences.
  • 56% of nurses overall and 70% of night-shift nurses say the have driven home from work drowsy
  • 40% of nurses worry their patient care will suffer because they are so tired
  • 37% of nurses say they worry about making a mistake, with 11% stating they have made mistakes at work because they were so tired
  • 28% of nurses have called in sick just to get some rest

Kronos proceeds to identify the causes of fatigue, as noted by the nurses polled:

  • 60% due to excessive workloads
  • 42% because they were unable to take lunch and dinner breaks during a shift
  • 41% because they were not able to take any breaks during a shift
  • 25% because they were not able to get enough sleep between shifts
  • 24% state they suffer from fatigue since they work 12 hour shifts

An astonishing 63% of nurses, that love their profession, feel their are suffering from burn-out. Whether it being a result of overworking the staff on hand, or tight scheduling routines, hospitals need to address this growing concern with their current nursing staff. Especially since the demand for qualified nursing professionals continues to increase.

Per the United States Department of Labor and Statistics, between 2016 to 2026, the need for the following nursing professions are projected to increase:

  • Nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to grow 11%
  • Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 12%
  • Registered nurses is projected to grow 15%
  • Occupational therapy assistants and aids is projected to grow 28%

The need for nurses is growing much faster than the average for all occupations. With the reasoning being, that an increased emphasis is being placed on preventative care, growing rates of chronic conditions (diabetes and obesity) and the increased demand for healthcare services from the baby-boomer population. Baby-boomers are living longer and have much more active lives, than generations of the past.


How can a we help our nurses?

If our nurses suffer, so do we! To help, we first must understand what their stress may be doing to their physical and mental health.

Unresolved stress has been shown to have numerous adverse effects on the body. Per the Mayo Clinic “stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts, your feelings and behavior. Stress can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”

Common effects of stress on the body:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset

Common effects of stress on your mood:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression

There are many options available to help reduce or manage stress, such as regular physical activity, relaxation techniques, socializing with family and friends, setting aside time for hobbies, reading or listening to music. Primarily, learning to take time for yourself, reconnecting with yourself, and unplugging from activities that trigger stress.

Massage therapy is another great way to reduce stress. Massage therapy is scheduled relaxation time. It allows the brain, body and soul to take a break, regroup and revitalize. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) lists the following benefits from getting a massage:

  • Relieve stress
  • Relieve/reduces pain for (postoperative, low-back, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic neck pain, lower joint replacement pain)
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Enhance exercise performance
  • Relieve tension headaches
  • Sleep better
  • Ease symptoms of depression
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Decrease stress in cancer patients
  • Improve balance in older adults
  • Temper effects of dementia
  • Promote relaxation
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decrease symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Increase range of motion
  • Decrease migraine frequency
  • Improve quality of life
  • Reduce chemotherapy-related nausea

Additionally, in a 2018 survey, ATMA found that 41% of individuals stated that their primary reason for receiving their last message, in the previous 12 months, was for medical purposes and 26% for relaxation and stress.

An interesting aspect to massage therapy, is the increased interest by licensed nursing professionals, in also obtaining their massage therapy license. Finding a nurse, which is also trained in massage therapy, provides an asset to the patient and the hospital.

By having a comprehensive educational background in the traditional medical field and combining this knowledge with therapeutic bodywork, it allows the nurse massage therapist to aid patients who suffer with a variety of specific medical and physical challenges.

Also, as a consideration, if a nurse has the option to transition into massage therapy, as their primary work skill, it would be a way to reduce work hours and their stress, but having a comfortable bridge in which they can transition.

Massage therapy is a benefit to both patient and provider. It is a combination of the nurses need to help decrease suffering, effect positive changes in patient health and comfort and to manage stress.

Consider treating yourself, a loved one, a co-worker or healthcare provider, with the benefits that massage therapy can provide. It could be the one gift that makes a world of difference!


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