For many years the medical profession held the view that massage therapy would have negative effects on cancer patients. However, after extensive research medical experts are now taking the opposite stand point.
Previous concerns surrounding massage as a positive therapy for cancer patients came from the fear that malignant tumours could spread to other parts of the body due to the superior circulation that massage provides. This idea has since been made redundant as scientific research does not support this position, instead finding that those with breast cancer, mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancers may actually benefit in many ways when including massage therapy in their treatment plan.
Needless to say, receiving treatment for any type of cancer is extremely stressful and painful. I have had first hand experience treating cancer patients with massage therapy, and I endeavoured to relieve those symptoms of pain the best I could in the circumstances. This mainly involved relaxing muscles, relieving pressure in certain areas of the body and hopefully releasing some pain. Depending on the individual, the severity of the illness and the patient’s response were all contributing factors to how useful massage therapy can be. There are definitely times when the patient may be too exhausted from treatment to even have a massage, whereas other times massage is met with clear physical and sometimes emotional relief.
Therapists are able to offer a variety of bodywork options, each with their own benefits and at times a combination of several techniques works extremely well, depending on the clients’ individual needs.
Treatments can include:
The type and style of massage therapy needed will very much depend on the circumstances presented to the therapist at the time of the treatment. The patient often needs different types of massage therapy at different stages of their illness. A competent therapist will be able to modify treatments given such as varying the speed and pressure of massage strokes on certain areas of the body. It goes without saying that communication between patient and therapist is essential, so if the relationship is not correct from the outset a different therapist would be advised if the patient is to get the full benefits massage therapy that it can potentially offer.
As mentioned above massage may help relieve stress and pain but it may also boost the patient’s mood and immune system. Some research shows that massage releases chemicals (endorphins) in the body, producing feelings of pleasure and well being. Other research has even suggested that with a boost of the immune system, massage is indirectly related to the production of more cancer fighting cells, although it is important to stress that massage has never been referred to as a possible cure for cancer but studies have shown the increasing number of benefits that massage offers as a support therapy whilst other treatment is ongoing.
There is now very little evidence supporting the idea that massage therapy worsens patient’s symptoms or their condition as a whole. In contrast more and more experts are recognising bodywork to be an important part of a treatment plan, but before starting any kind of bodywork massage therapists will always insist on having the permission from a patient’s doctor before they provide their own therapy.