Aromatherapy and massage therapy are two of the most common complementary and alternative therapies used today. The former is already commonly used by nurses and has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as reduce pain and anxiety.
One frequently used essential oil in aromatherapy is lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), a well-known aromatic and medicinal herb. The active ingredients of lavender essential oil can be quickly absorbed through the skin and have sedative, antidepressant and muscular relaxant effects. They also have a positive effect on sleep quality.
With this in mind, researchers from Ataturk University and Ataturk University Research Hospital decided to test whether aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oil could help enhance the sleep quality of post-operative patients in a surgical intensive care unit.
Their findings were published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines.
For their study, the researchers used a sample size of 60 patients whom they divided equally into two groups: the experimental group and the control group. The patients were assigned to either group using convenience sampling.
The researchers used strict inclusion criteria for the participants to minimize sample variability. The patients had to be at least 18 years of age, able to speak Turkish, post-operative, lacking open scars or complications, conscious and extubated to be eligible. Any patients involved in an emergency operation or who had chronic pain problems, hearing impairment, cognitive impairment, hemodynamic instability or have been intubated were also excluded.
None of the patients in the experimental and control groups had any interaction with each other prior to the study.
Prior to the experiment, data was collected from the patients through face-to-face interviews using the Richards-Campbell Sleep Questionnaire (RCSQ). In addition, the physical parameters of patients in both the experimental and control groups were tested while they were in bed. As part of this, patient characteristics such as age, gender, experience with intensive care, pain levels and sleep duration were identified and recorded.
Patients in the experimental group received aromatherapy massage at 10:00 p.m. for 10 to 15 minutes. To test if any of the patients had any allergic reaction to lavender oil, it was only applied to a small area on the inner portion of a patient's arm first before full application.
The patients were given a whole-body massage, involving their deltoid muscles, arms, back, shoulder, thighs, palms and fingers, front and posterior parts of the legs, forearms, belly and chest, front and back of feet, auxiliaries and neck muscles.
Following the massage, the patients' physical parameters were once again tested.
The researchers noted that patients who were part of the experimental group had a higher mean score on the RCSQ than those in the control group. This indicated that the former had better sleep quality while in the intensive care unit than the latter. (Related: Assessing the use of aromatherapy in clinical practice.)
With regard to physiological parameters, the researchers noted that those in the experimental group experienced a decrease in diastolic blood pressure after the massage. No other differences in physiological parameters were noted.
Based on these, the researchers concluded that aromatherapy massage can enhance the sleep quality of post-operative patients in surgical intensive care. This in in addition to some positive changes in certain physiological parameters.
For more studies on the benefits of aromatherapy massage, visit AlternativeMedicine.news.