Palmer Foundation Funds MedStar to Study Effects of Massage Therapy on Pain for Palliative Care Patients | MedStar Health

Palmer Foundation Funds MedStar to Study Effects of Massage Therapy on Pain for Palliative Care Patients

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Close up photo of a massage therapist's hands on an elderly man's face.
Hunter Groninger
Hunter Groninger, MD, FACP, FAAHPM

HYATTSVILLE, Md. (June 27, 2017)—MedStar Health Research Institute and MedStar Washington Hospital Center, in partnership with Healwell, are the recipients of a Palmer Foundation grant to study and compare effective dosages of massage therapy on pain and distress relief for hospitalized palliative care patients.

The primary investigator of the grant is Hunter Groninger, MD, FACP, FAAHPM. Dr. Groninger serves as MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s director of Palliative Care, where he conducts patient care, teaches, and participates in research activities. The interdisciplinary Palliative Care team takes a holistic approach to care that emphasizes the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients at any stage of serious illness, and provide services simultaneously with life-prolonging treatments.

The research funded will investigate massage therapy as a cost-effective alternative or supplement to pharmacologic therapy for palliative care patients. Over one year of data collection, the study will seek to measure three strategies of massage therapy for patients. Its aim is to establish metrics for therapeutic massage dosing to reduce palliative care pain and distress, which are also cost-effective.  Outcomes will be measured through a comparison of baseline surveys, interventions, and post-intervention surveys, with additional data being collected through a Patient Satisfaction Survey.

“This study builds on existing palliative care research addressing nonpharmacologic supportive care for the seriously ill,” said Dr. Groninger. “As a result of increasing patient and regulatory demand for integrative nonpharmacologic therapies, healthcare systems are being compelled to investigate optimal dosing of nonpharmacologic symptom-directed interventions, such as massage therapy that provide clinicians viable cost-effective options for pain/symptom distress management.”

Healwell is an Arlington, Va.-based non-profit agency whose mission is to improve the quality of life for people affected by acute, chronic, and terminal illness through integrative hands-on therapies, education, and research.

Over the past 25 years, The Palmer Foundation has awarded hundreds of domestic grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, primarily in Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states, as well as international grants to worthwhile organizations working in countries where family members have lived. The Foundation currently focuses its grantmaking in the areas of youth empowerment, the environment, and public health.

About MedStar Health Research Institute

The MedStar Health Research Institute is the research arm of MedStar Health, the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region. MHRI provides scientific, administrative and regulatory support for research programs throughout the MedStar Health system. MHRI’s expertise includes translational research into disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. These programs complement the key clinical services and teaching programs in the 10 MedStar hospitals and other MedStar entities. For more information, visit

About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit