Improving Clinical Outcomes and Quality of Life with Massage Therapy in Youth and Young Adults with Cystic Fibrosis: a Pilot Study

Kathleen (Kate) Zink, MSN, RN, AHN-BC, LMT, Barbara Chini, MD, Joyce Cowens, LMT, Lois Kremer, BSN, RN, Li Lin, MS, BS


Background: Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is an autosomal recessive disorder of exocrine glands characterized by abnormal production of thick mucus, primar-ily in bronchi of the lungs. Individuals experience recurrent respiratory infections, increased work of breathing, cough and musculoskeletal changes with pain. Previous research found that massage therapy (MT) decreased pain, muscle tightness, and anxiety in individuals with CF, but did not use valid/reliable measurements of quality of life (QOL).

Purpose: To evaluate the effects of MT on QOL and clinical outcomes in individuals 8 to 21 years old with CF.

Setting: A 622-bed nonprofit pediatric hospital in Ohio in the United States.

Participants: Convenience sample of 24 patients with CF; 12 randomly assigned to treatment and control groups, respectively.

Research Design and Intervention: Prospective two-group controlled pre/post pilot study using deep tissue myofascial trigger point massage over 10 to 12 weeks.

Measurements: Pediatric Quality of Life Inven-tory (Peds QL 4.0); Cystic Fibrosis Questionnaire-Revised (CFQ-R); numeric rating scales (NRS) for pain, muscle tightness, ease of breathing, relax-ation; pulmonary function (PFT); single breath count; thoracic excursion (TE).

Results: All participants were Caucasian; mean age 15.7 (SD = 3.5) years; 16 (66.6%) female. No significant differences were found in terms of age, gender, baseline pain between MT and control groups. At the final visit, compared to the control group, the children in MT group showed statistically significantly reduced muscle tight-ness (p = .048) with a large effect size (?²=0.163) and marginally statistically significantly higher levels of relaxation (p = .052), less pain (p = .076), and improved upper TE (p = .078) and lower TE (p = .056) scores with large and moderate effect sizes (?² = 0.156, ?² = 0.095, ?² = 0.083, and ?² = 0.073). No statistically significant differences in children’s and caregivers’ QOL scores between the two groups were found.

Conclusions: Massage therapy was found to significantly reduce muscle tightness, marginally significantly help pain, relaxation, and thoracic excursion in participants with CF


cystic fibrosis; massage therapy; musculoskeletal pain; pulmonary function; quality of life

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International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
ISSN 1916-257X