What is Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is a manual method of working on body’s soft tissues, deep muscles, various pressure points, tendons and ligaments using several techniques and applying fixed and movable pressure, to help relieve stress, promote healing and relaxation. The massage is performed by a professional who uses their hands and fingers to handle different muscles by making various movements like pressing and rubbing. All of these techniques are quite advantageous for the muscular, circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems of the body. Owing to these great benefits, massage therapy for cancer patients is now becoming common.
One of the oldest method of healing, massage therapy, is a clinically oriented health care option, now used widely as a complementary treatment for cancer patients. Massage therapy helps people suffering from cancer by eliminating anxiety, boosting the immunity, and diminishing tiredness and pain. Various modalities of massage therapy are employed for cancer care. Some of them are Swedish massage, aromatherapy massage, acupressure, and reflexology.
How Does Massage Therapy Work?
There are various varieties of massage therapies available, and the therapy offered will depend upon the patient’s individual needs and conditions.
In Swedish massage multiple strokes and moments are used to relax the muscles of the body while lubricating the skin with massage oil. While aromatherapy focuses on the physical, and mental well-being of the person. Various fragrant oils and scents are used to complement and naturally enhance the benefits of massage. Acupressure simply thought as acupuncture without needles, involves applying pressure to acupoints on the body. This Chinese technique is used to treat many diseases. Reflexology, another modality of massage therapy, is the application of appropriate pressure, to the specific points on the hands, feet or ears that are linked to other parts of the body.
All these approaches and various massage methods emphasize on specific goals by restoring and calming the body and mind, muscles and soft tissues. When a massage therapist massages a particular area of the body, positive electrical activity is generated and transmitted from that region, which leads to increased blood circulation, low levels of pain, better capability to fight diseases, and an increased lymphatic drainage. Massage therapy helps in lowering stress levels and improves quality of life.
Advantages of Massage Therapy with Different Types of Cancer
As per above discussions, there are many different kinds of massage therapy and these have various effects on the body. There are different types of cancer, and their stages and treatment are also variable. All forms of cancer cause pain, it is very prevalent amongst cancer patients and often neglected by physicians. Massage therapy for cancer patients is used increasingly to relieve cancer-related pain and is considered useful and beneficial for their well-being, leading to decreased pain scores in cancer patients. It also helps in relieving other symptoms of cancer such tiredness, difficulty in sleeping, reducing stress and anxiety, decreasing lymphedema and several other side effects, providing healing and relaxation to the cancer patients. A research conducted with 230 cancer patients concluded that healing touch of massage relieves pain and anxiety levels and decreases the need to take painkillers. Massage therapy is also of great advantage in breast cancer patients. The therapeutic process elevates the level of brain chemical “dopamine “in the brain, which leads to elevated mood and feeling to goodness and wellbeing, a number of protective white blood cells also increase and help boost the immune system of these patients.
Does Massage Therapy Cause Metastasis?
Metastasis is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to other parts. Although there are various debates and myths present, linking massage to metastasis of cancer, there is no real evidence present to support, that massage therapy in cancer patients leads to or promotes metastasis. Massage therapy for cancer patients is considered safe and rather helpful for the those suffering from cancer. However, any modality of massage therapy, which the patient may plan to undertake, should be properly discussed with the doctor, as there might be potential risk involved for patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
However, it is the subject of debate that deep pressure massage therapy might be responsible for the spread of tumor and metastasis of cancer in various body organs. It is, therefore, crucial that one should not directly massage over the tumor area, and it’s surrounding soft tissues and muscles. Deep massage therapy should be avoided in people with bone cancer as deep massage and application of pressure applied over the affected area might cause a bone fracture.
Does Massage Therapy Decrease the Side Effects of Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is used to treat a wide variety of cancer. Chemotherapy, in addition to the killing of cancer cells, causes severe side effects like anxiety, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, problems with muscle and nerves, muscle pain, kidney and bladder problems. Massage therapy for cancer patients not only helps in dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy but also enhances the positive impact of chemo. The relaxation response caused by massage therapy helps relieve nausea and decreases muscle pain. In 2005, a research stated that acupressure, a type of massage therapy, reduces vomiting and nausea, induced by chemotherapy. Another research study conducted in 2007 stipulated that post- chemotherapy fatigue, physical fatigue, and anemia is reduced after massage therapy in cancer patients.
Does Massage Therapy Decrease the Side Effects of Radiation?
Radiation therapy, also known as radiation or radio, is another form of cancer treatment that relies on radio waves to treat the tumor and decrease its size. However its side effects are also massive and troublesome, they can include, for instance, insomnia, fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, swelling, urinary and bladder changes, and sexual changes. There is an established role of massage therapy in fighting the side effects of radiotherapy. It counters the damaging effects of heat and radiation by healing and soothing through touch. In 2009, a pilot study that included 14 cancer patients receiving acupuncture for four weeks, concluded that massage therapy in these patients relieved Xerostomia, a condition caused by radiation in which salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva that can in turn lead to severe dryness of mouth.
Does Massage Therapy Stimulate the Immune System?
Massage therapy boosts the immune system by increasing the circulation of blood throughout the body. The enhanced circulation of blood leads to delivery of nutrients throughout the body, along with the circulation of lymph, which promotes movement of fighter cells of immune system. The extra boost in immune system through massage helps body fighting potential and speeds up recovery from infection and injury.
Does Massage Therapy Increase Quality of Life?
Massage therapy for cancer patients enhances the quality of life. Massage therapy increases circulation of blood and metabolism, hence activating every cell of the body, increasing immunity, and in the rejuvenation of body and mind. It was proven in 2003 by Department of Mental health science in the UK.
Does Massage Therapy Increase the Survival Rate?
Physical symptoms of cancer are quite distressing for the patients battling cancer. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, pain and increased fatigue levels. Proper massage therapy along with exercise and change in diet positively affects up to 75 to 95% of cancer patients. Massage therapy for cancer patients leads to improved fatigue levels. The research was conducted by cancer rehabilitation institute at the University of North Colorado.
Featured Photo Source: American Massage Therapy Association
- Acupressure Points and Massage Treatment
- The effect of massage therapy on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in pediatric cancer
- Massage therapy for cancer patients: a reciprocal relationship between body and mind
Dr. Adem Gunes has built the world’s largest database of scientifically tested natural substances with proven effects in cancer treatments. In 2009, he was appointed as the Chief Physician of ProLife Clinic in Innsbruck, Austria, and played a key role in the establishment of the research laboratory. He is also the co-founder of the first Austrian hyperthermia center. Now, Dr. Adem works closely with cancer patients from around the world (including Germany, Thailand, Dubai) to recommend them a complementary cancer clinic or to create a personalized care plan for patients to follow at home.