Numerous cancer treatment facilities are now offering massage therapy to patients suffering from cancer as a complementary treatment to radiation or chemotherapy. While massage isn't meant to be a treatment for cancer on its own, it can go a long way toward helping these people relieve many of their cancer symptoms and the side effects of the treatments.
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage is the kneading, rubbing and manipulation of the skin and muscles in order to promote health and encourage feelings of relaxation and well-being. The types of massage that people are most familiar with are back or foot rubs, but professional massage therapy is quite similar.
There are many different methods used in massage therapy. Some of the most popular techniques used for people with cancer include Swedish and aromatherapy massage. Deep tissue massage is also commonly used and is good for helping patients deal with limited motion, scar tissue and chronic pain after treatment is finished. However, it is never used or recommended for people who are actively undergoing treatment as this technique can exacerbate discomfort or pain in such cases.
Massage Therapy Benefits
Researchers who have studied the effects of massage on health believe that it provides great psychological and physical benefits. Here are some of the things it can do:
- Reduce inflammation and edema
- Improve the flow of blood througout the body
- Relieve muscle soreness and stiffness
- Reduce blood levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
- Promote relaxation
- Trigger the release of endorphins to aid pain relief
- Distract patients from their pain and illness
- Break up mucus in the lungs and promote expectoration, which is especially helpful for patients with mesothelioma
It just seems to make sense that massage therapy should help people living with cancer. It feels good and there's a certain serenity to be gained when being pampered by someone who knows what they're doing and wants to help. In fact, researchers are finding that massage can help cancer patients with numerous emotional and lifestyle aspects such as:
- Reduced feelings of depression
- Less anxiety and stress
- Better sleep quality
- Reduced fatigue
- Pain management
- Better quality of life
According to one study, massage is an excellent way for people with cancer to manage their pain. The effects don't last a long time, but massage is considered to be a safe and reliable method of pain relief. Although such therapy might not completely negate the need for painkillers, it may still help patients rely less on these expensive and potentially addictive drugs. Yet another study had found that massage therapy even offered pain relief for patients suffering from bone cancer.
Warnings and Contraindications
It is recommended to speak with a doctor before beginning massage therapy, especially in cases of recent surgery or treatments with radiation or chemotherapy. Consult your doctor and find a therapy that works best for you and your treat and give your body, mind and spirit the vacation it deserves!
Contributor: Ms. Melanie L. Bowen