New research: Aromatherapy massage for neuropathic (nerve) pain in cancer patients.
A 2017 open-label, quasi-randomized pilot clinical study examined the effect of aromatherapy massage on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathic pain and fatigue. In 20% to 100% of patients, depending on dose regimen, chemotherapy causes symptoms such as numbness, tingling, hypersensitivity, and sharp or burning pain in limb extremities. This can be debilitating, and some patients discontinue chemotherapy because of it.
Forty-six patients with primary colon cancer, receiving oxaliplatin chemotherapy, were divided into two groups. Twenty two participants were given an aromatherapy hand and foot massage three times a week for six weeks, and twenty four received standard medical care only. Pain scores and fatigues scores were measured at the beginning of the study and then every two weeks.
The aromatherapy blend consisted of Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Blue Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) essential oils in equal parts (Rosemary chemotype not stated). The blend was added to coconut oil at a total dilution of 1.5%.
The aromatherapy group showed significantly lower pain scores throughout the duration of the study, and also showed significantly lower incidence of neuropathic pain at week 6 (only 4 participants experiencing pain compared to 11 in the control group). Fatigue scores improved in the aromatherapy group only.
Although ideally this study would also include a massage group with no essential oils added, this is still a clinically significant result. Aromatherapy is making progress in palliative and cancer care, and clinical studies like this make a great argument for implementing complementary therapies in oncology centers.