Monday, October 29, 2012

Guest Post: Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients

As many of you know, I've done a lot of alternative healing therapies in my 8+ year healing journey...Reflexology, hydrogen peroxide therapy, numerous vitamins, minerals and supplements, meditation, chiropractic, homeopathic, and who can forget massage therapy! 

{there's a lot more to that list but I didn't want to bore you!}

Massage therapy can be an essential tool to help any person regardless of their ailment, but today's guest post by Melanie L. Bowen mainly focuses on massage therapy for cancer patients


Massage for Cancer Patients: Special Considerations

Over the years, massage therapy was frowned upon as means of natural treatment. The theory was accepted in massage literature and passed from therapist to student. The medical community retained the belief that cancer cells moved to other parts of the body from tissue manipulation and were pushed into the venous and lymphatic system.

As more knowledge about the mechanism of cancer is studied, the more it is accepted that massage and tissue manipulation does not spread the disease.  An obvious observation is that exercise, similar to massage, is not contraindicated and does not extend cancer to other parts of the body. However, many contraindications do exist for cancer patients, and the massage therapist must incorporate specialized techniques and considerations.

The Condition of the Patient

Massage therapy for patients during diagnosis is much different for patients in medical treatment, recovery, and in the end of life stage. Understanding the patient’s current condition, level of pain and anxiety, fatigue, and current medical interventions, is necessary to administer the proper massage techniques. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the patient to identify what part of the body is affected by the cancer, and assess the level of pain they are experiencing.


Weak patients experiencing pain may not tolerate the prone position or even side lying. Consider massage in a chair with easy access. The patient can rest the upper body on lap pillows and lower their arms at their sides comfortably with support. Cancer patients may only be able to tolerate massage to small areas of the body. For example perhaps massage treatment for a mesothelioma patient would differ than if someone was suffering from leukemia. Focus on the hands or feet can relax the muscles, promote the release of endorphins, and increase circulation to the body.

Cancer Patients are Isolated

Many patients are lonely due to the restrictions of their illness.  Weakness, long periods of hospitalization, and medication routines may keep them from their job or usual social settings. Some do not have supportive family members and spend long periods of time alone. Isolation can result in mood changes and depression. The powerful healing touch of massage promotes human connectedness and decreases the feelings of isolation. A well-prepared therapist can be a caring and attentive listener, allowing the patient to vocalize emotions and concerns.

With more studies recommending massage for cancer patients, it is imperative for the therapist to advance their knowledge in oncology. Modifications to massage techniques for the oncology patient are derived from good clinical judgment and sound practices. Massage is a vital addition to the supportive care for cancer patients.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That is super interesting! not only for cancer patients, but I think in general we forget how the simple things like relax and the touch might makes us feel 10 times better!