What’s Better Than a Massage?

Posted on March 6, 2012 by


“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” as Joan Didion famously said. That is, the attempt to make sense of our lives is, in a way, crucial to our very survival. A new study indicates it’s a lifelong impulse. Results of a study that assigned 120 terminally-ill cancer patients to either 7 hour-long sessions with a psychotherapist or an equivalent amount of time of massage indicate that the opportunity to talk about “big issues” in a structured, secular environment brought patients more relief–even more physical relief–than the massage:

The psychotherapy sessions addressed issues of meaning, identity and hope, as well as the finiteness of life. They included reflection exercises and aimed to give patients a sense of peace and purpose in their lives, the researchers explained in their report, published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Scores on patient surveys of spiritual well-being — including feelings of meaning and faith — as well as quality of life and physical symptom distress all improved modestly but consistently in the therapy group from right before their first session to after their last.

There was little or no benefit seen over the same time span for patients who were treated with massage.

Read more here.