Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 17, Issue 9, pp 1203–1211 | Cite as

The existential experiences of receiving soft tissue massage in palliative home care—an intervention

  • Berit Seiger Cronfalk
  • Peter Strang
  • Britt-Marie Ternestedt
  • Maria Friedrichsen
Original Article



Soft tissue massage is currently used in palliative care for the relief of anxiety and pain. Only few studies have focused on patients’ deeper experience of receiving the massage.


The purpose of this study was to explore how patients with cancer in palliative home care experienced soft tissue massage.

Materials and methods

Twenty-two patients received soft tissue massage (hand or foot) nine times over a period of 2 weeks. Each session lasted for 25 min. Following the last massage session, a qualitative interview was conducted. The analysis was performed using a hermeneutic approach.


Soft tissue massage generated feelings of existential respite with perceptions of being released from illness for a while. Two categories constituted the basis of the experiences: (1) “an experience of thoughtful attention” and (2) “a sensation of complete tranquility” resulting in the overarching theme “A time of existential respite.”


The patients experienced the massage to give meaning and to be important as it generated feelings of an inner respite.

Relevance to clinical practice

Soft tissue massage appears to be an appreciated source of support to dying patients in palliative home care. The method is easy to comprehend and relatively short (25 min) which may imply that it is a suitable complement in nursing care for this patient group.


Patients Palliative care Cancer Massage CAM 



We thank The Vårdal Institute, Gunnar Nilsson Foundation, The Swedish Cancer Society, and Stockholm County Council and Stockholms Sjukhem Foundation for financial support. Special thanks to Eddie Edwinsson.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Berit Seiger Cronfalk
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Peter Strang
    • 1
    • 5
  • Britt-Marie Ternestedt
    • 2
    • 6
  • Maria Friedrichsen
    • 3
    • 7
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Oncology–PathologyKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Department of Palliative Care ResearchErsta Sköndal University CollegeStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Department of Social & Welfare StudiesLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  4. 4.The Swedish Institute for Health SciencesThe Vårdal InstituteLundSweden
  5. 5.Research and Development DepartmentStockholms Sjukhem FoundationStockholmSweden
  6. 6.Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and SocietyKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  7. 7.Palliative Education and Research Centre in The County of ÖstergötlandVrinnevi HospitalNorrköpingSweden

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