As scientific research continues to find new ways to address cancer treatment, holistic and natural approaches to improving a cancer patient’s well being have become increasingly popular. While these methods may not cure the cancer itself, they provide numerous psychological and physiological benefits to patients who may be struggling to manage their symptoms. One such natural treatment is massage therapy.
Massage therapy has been in existence for centuries. It has long been acknowledged that the hands have healing power, and that the ability to achieve a state of deep relaxation is vital to overall health and well-being. Humans crave touch from the moment they are born, and can respond to touch even when other body systems are failing. Modern massage therapists are highly trained individuals with college degrees and a detailed understanding of the human body. Some even specialize in the use of massage for medically complex patients.
The benefits of massage therapy for cancer patients are both mental and physical. Having the body tissues manipulated and the muscles rubbed promotes increased blood flow to specific sites, and throughout the body. Good blood flow helps to remove waste products and provide tissues with the oxygen they need to perform body functions efficiently.
Blood pressure may also become more stabilized. After a massage, muscles will be in a relaxed state. This can aid in pain relief as the tension that creates pain will have been reduced. Many people undergoing oncology treatment suffer from stiff muscles and decreased mobility due to the buildup of scar tissue from surgical or other treatment sites. Massage can assist in the breakdown of these areas, and may also dislodge excessive mucus from membranes in the lungs that can buildup during periods of decreased activity.
Being massaged creates a general sense of calm, and can help to quiet a busy mind. It may also help to reduce the anxiety and stress that patients are experiencing over their prognosis. Some studies suggest that massage stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain, such as endorphins, that lift the mood. Furthermore, it can also counteract some of the nausea associated with chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
For patients with rapidly progressing cancers for which there are no known cures, such as mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer, massage therapy can provide significant relief for the mind and body. It may also make it possible to reduce the amount of pain relieving drugs a patient takes, in turn reducing the negative side effects that accompany such medications. There is no clear evidence to suggest that any form of massage therapy can cure cancer or alter the growth of cancerous cells. This certainly does not mean that massage does not have benefits. The focus of massage therapy treatment is improving quality of life, and providing a sense of peace as medical challenges are faced.
The advice of a qualified oncology professional should always be sought before beginning a massage program. In rare cases tissue manipulation may cause complications, particularly if the cancer has begun to spread outside its area of origin. An experienced massage therapist should perform treatments due to the sensitive nature of the patient’s body. Due to the many potential benefits, massage should certainly be considered as part of a complete cancer treatment plan.
Blog by Melanie L Bowen
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Read about the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance here – for help, support and well-researched guidance for holistic healing.