Foot massage and aromatherapy improve sleep quality, happiness, and fatigue in patients with a history of stroke, according to study findings published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine.

After a stroke, patients often experience sleep disorders, daytime somnolence, fatigue, and unhappy mood. Previous research has indicated that additional support is important for resolving a connection between post-stroke fatigue and sleep problems. Massage and aromatherapy, which have been shown to improve sleep quality by reducing anxiety, could provide a holistic approach for increasing the emotional wellness of patients post-stroke.

This is the first study to examine the impact of both foot massage and inhaled aromatherapy on fatigue, sleep, and happiness, according to researchers.


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The researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, Identifier: NCT05403515) of 91 patients residing at a special rehabilitation center who had suffered a stroke in the past year. The patients were placed into 1 of 3 groups: an aromatherapy and foot massage group (n=29), a foot massage group (n=31), and a control group (n=31). The data collector and the statistician had no information about the individuals in the intervention and control groups. About half of the patients in each group were aged between 65 and 75 years.

Patient data were collected using the Oxford happiness questionnaire-short form (OHQ-S), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and the Piper fatigue scale.

Participants in the foot massage group individually experienced 30-minute foot massages in a room with a quiet atmosphere 3 days per week for 4 weeks. Patients in the foot massage and aromatherapy group received lavender oil aromatherapy for 30 minutes during the foot massage session. Control group individuals received routine nursing care.

In terms of post-test OHQ-S scores, a statistically significant difference was found between the groups (χ2=80.137; P =.000). Foot massage group participants had statistically significantly lower post-test OHQ-S scores compared with the foot massage and aromatherapy group, which had higher scores compared with control individuals.

For sleep, a statistically significant difference was noted between the groups for post-test PSQI index scores (F=56.101; P =.000). There was a statistically significant difference identified between those in the foot massage group, those in the foot massage and aromatherapy group, and those in the control group. In terms of the mean post-test PSQI score, scores were significantly lower in the foot massage and aromatherapy group compared with the control group.

While there was no significant difference in mean pretest Piper fatigue scores (P >.05), there was a significant difference in post-test scores between groups (χ2=75.271; P =.000).

Post-test Piper fatigue mean scores in the foot massage group were higher compared with the foot massage and aromatherapy group and lower compared with the control group.

Overall, the findings revealed that the combination of a foot massage and aromatherapy helped improve fatigue, sleep quality, and happiness levels in patients with stroke.

The researchers explained that “Since aromatherapy + foot massage intervention was found to be more effective on fatigue, sleep quality, and happiness level of patients, inhalation aromatherapy should be involved in the treatment.”

Study limitations included the generalization to patients with severe disability levels, influence of psychological conditions of patients who completed questionnaires, variation in length of stay at rehabilitation center, and lack of long-term follow-up.

This article originally appeared on Neurology Advisor