Relax Your Mind, Body, and Spirit: How Massage Therapy Can Be Beneficial in Cancer Care

Melanie Bowen

Awareness Advocate for Natural Health

2 0 1 2Jul03

Relax Your Mind, Body, and Spirit: How Massage Therapy Can Be Beneficial in Cancer Care

Posted by Melanie Bowen

Prevailing medical wisdom long held the belief that massage therapy would have more negative effects on cancer patients than positive ones, but many medical professionals are challenging that ruling. The fear surrounding massage therapy for cancer patients stems back to the idea that malignant cancer tumors could spread to other parts of the body due to the superior circulation that massage therapy could provide. Many experts claim that scientific research does not support this position and that people with breast cancer, mesothelioma, and other types of cancers may benefit in several ways from receiving massage therapy.

Receiving treatment for cancer is stressful and painful, and a qualified massage therapist can help relieve those symptoms. A good masseuse can relax muscles, relieve pressure, and release pain; cancer patients who have received massage therapy often comment on how the massages often helped relieve the pain and stress associated with having cancer. Since cancer treatments are so painful and draining, not every patient will feel up to having a massage. Since there are different types of cancer, treatments, and different styles of massaging, each patient will have to find the combination that’s best for him or her.

Massage therapists offer a wide variety of bodywork options. Acupressure, Swedish massage, shiatsu, sports massage, and neuromuscular therapy are a few of the choices from which cancer patients can choose. Some massage types stick to light massages while others require a heavier hand. Massage speed may also vary; some types require slow, steady massaging while other massage types use a quicker massaging method. Cancer patients may wish to avoid receiving massage therapy near a tumor location as such stimulation may cause pain and other medical problems.

Massage proponents also claim that receiving massage therapy can boost both the patient’s mood and immune system. Some claim that massaging releases chemicals called endorphins in the body, producing feelings of pleasure and well-being in the patient. Others claim that receiving regular massages can increase the patient’s immune system and can even cause the body to produce more cancer-fighting cells. Most doctors hesitate to call massage therapy a cure for cancer since no link has ever truly been proven between the two, but some studies have produced results that seem to link massage therapy to cancer patient benefits.

While there are neither positive nor negative concrete links between massage therapy and cancer, several studies as well as numerous anecdotes from cancer patients put massage therapy for cancer patients in a positive light. One undisputed point is that massages reduce stress and pain, and many cancer patients who receive some sort of massage therapy report a significant reduction of symptoms after receiving bodywork.

Whether or not massage therapy actually results in negative effects for cancer cells, there is little scientific evidence to support the claim that massage therapy worsens cancer. Patients who are contemplating receiving massage therapy should consult their physicians before beginning their bodywork regimes since doctors should be aware of all types of therapy their cancer patients are receiving.

Who doesn’t love the opportunity to relax their mind, body and spirit? Give yourself a vacation from some of life’s trials and tribulations and immerse yourself in massage therapy and get your serenity back!

Massage shown to relieve menopause symptoms

A small number of massage sessions with scented oils may be enough to help ease menopause symptoms in some women, according to a new study.

The work by Iranian scientists at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences found the sessions could relieve symptoms such as irritability, depression and disruptive sleep problems and that the presence of the oil helped the massage to be more effective.

Dr Hilda Hutcherson, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health that the results seemed logical.

With the symptoms the study measured it makes sense that massages could make some women feel better, she stated.

Lavender oil was found to be the most effective addition to a massage and Dr Hutchinson said the oil has an association with making people feel more relaxed.

Friday, 8th June 2012 International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics

Massage outperforms meds for low back pain, study finds

Is it conceivable that massage can provide more effective relief from low back pain than medication? A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests this therapy might indeed alleviate back pain better in the short term than traditional interventions of medicine, bed rest or exercise: Healthday reports.

The investigation conducted by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle involved 400 patients who had low back pain, the majority of which were middle aged, Caucasian and female. Researchers found those who were given a series of relaxation massage or structural massage were better able to work and be active than those who were given traditional medical care, such as pain pills, muscle relaxants or physical therapy.

According to The New York Times, the study’s participants were randomly divided into three groups: structural massage, relaxation massage and traditional care. Patients in the massage groups received one hour of therapy weekly for 10 weeks.

At the conclusion of the 10 week period, over one-third of the patients who were given massage therapy reported their pain was much improved or eliminated completely, as opposed to only one in 25 patients who were given traditional care. Furthermore, patients in the massage groups were twice as likely to have spent fewer days in bed rest, used less pain pills and participated in more activity than the traditional care group.

Lead author Daniel Cherkin was surprised by the fact that structural massage did not prove superior to relaxation massage in relieving pain. Structural massage involves manipulating specific back pain related muscles and ligaments, while relaxation massage, otherwise known as Swedish massage, involves inducing body-wide relaxation.

The beneficial effects of the massage seemed not only to be experienced during the 10-week therapy period, but also to linger for a time following the cessation of therapy. Evidence of this lingering effect was manifested by the fact that the massage groups continued to display improved function six months after the study’s onset. At the one year mark, however, no significant differences were found in the three groups.

Although the researchers were uncertain of massage therapy’s exact mechanism of action for easing back pain, they voiced several theories. One suggestion was that it either stimulated tissue locally or produced a general central nervous system response. Another speculation was that merely spending time in a relaxing environment and feeling cared for might have been responsible for the improvement. An additional factor to consider is the subjectivity that is impossible to eliminate in such studies. Patients in the control group were aware that the other groups were receiving massage and this knowledge may have caused them to discount their own progress.

It should be reiterated that the study suggests rather than proves the benefit of massage for back pain. Also, some members of the American medical community not associated with the research have expressed reluctance to accept the suggested benefits as being valid.

Conversely, the study’s authors offered their assessments of its import. Cherkin characterizes the results as being “pretty strong.” He states the massage was tested on patients who did not improve using the standard medical approach to back pain treatment. He feels that massage therapy is a reasonable thing to try for anyone getting insufficient relief from this malady. The coauthor, Dr. Richard Deyo, feels that massage appears to provide clinicians with another choice for managing the challenging medical problem of chronic low back pain.

Massage Therapy Manages Pain of Chronic Conditions

People with chronic pain often turn to massage therapy to help naturally improve their quality of life. Notes Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida:

“Most people go to massage therapists to reduce pain. There’s a release of serotonin, which is the body’s natural production of anti-pain chemicals. Additionally, an aggravating factor in pain syndromes can be a lack of deep, restorative sleep. Massage is very effective at increasing deep sleep. With more deep sleep, you have less pain.”

Fibromyalgia and arthritis are two chronic pain syndromes that can be positively impacted by massage therapy. In a study of massage therapy for knee osteoarthritis, a group receiving massage therapy for the pain showed significant improvement in pain, stiffness and physical function. They increased their range of motion and reduced the time it took them to walk 50 feet.

In another study, conducted by the Touch Research Institute and funded by Massage Envy, people with arthritis in their wrist and hand reported less pain and greater grip strength after massage therapy. They also had lower anxiety and depressed mood scores.

For people looking to naturally manage their chronic pain, massage therapy can improve quality of life by impacting mood as well as manage the pain. When you live with chronic pain, having a toolbox of strategies you turn to for pain relief is important. Massage can be a powerful tool for relaxing both mind and body.

Benefits of Managing Chronic Pain

  • Increases serotonin, which reduces pain naturally
  • Naturally increases deep sleep
  • Increases range of motion
  • Lowers anxiety and improves mood

Massage Therapy Improves Post-Operative Surgical Rehabilitation

An important aspect of any surgical procedure is the post rehabilitation recovery process. It’s during this process that natural movement is re-learned, and freedom of movement is re-enforced. Massage plays an important role as a supplement to standard rehabilitation procedures after surgery.

Spine surgeon Johnny C. Benjamin explains how massage can help promote healing. (excerpt from article)

“Massage is great in helping to bring blood and nutrients to the affected area to repair the soft tissue. Massage also can help break up scar tissue and keep the muscles supple so less scar tissue develops in the first place.”

By increasing circulation while relaxing the muscles, massage can help the body pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs. This allows the surgical rehabilitating area(s) to become more flexible and heal at an accelerated rate.

Even when there’s no injury, massage can helps athletes of all levels improve their flexibility and muscle suppleness. Our professional massage therapists can also stretch the muscles in trouble areas, promoting increased flexibility when the body is warm and more elastic.

When you book your massage, request a therapist experienced in sports massage, and ask that special attention be paid to any injured areas.

Benefits of Improved Post-Operative Surgical Rehabilitation

  • Assists the body in pumping more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs
  • Accelerates the surgical recovery process
  • Aids in improving joint movement and flexibility

Promote Deeper and Easier Breathing

One of the telltale signs of anxiety and stress can be constricted breathing. When the body starts to take shallow short breaths instead of breathing at a natural pace, it is near impossible for one to reach a relaxed state. Part of the problem is that the muscles around the rib cage and abdomen may have tightened, constricting air.

Massage plays an important role in training the body how to relax and help improve breathing. Respiratory issues, such as allergies, sinus problems, asthma and bronchitis, are one group of conditions that can benefit from massage therapy. In fact, the positive impact massage can have on respiratory function has been shown through research, says Anne Williams, education program director at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.

Many muscles in the front and back of the upper body are accessory respiratory muscles, she explains. “When any of these muscles are chronically tight and shortened, they can restrict normal breathing and disrupt breathing patterns,” she explains. “Massage techniques to lengthen and relax these muscles improve breathing capacity and function.”

Massage therapy can not only improve breathing, but also posture. This can lead to an opening of the chest area, as well as the structural alignment and rib cage expansion needed for optimal lung function, she adds. Plus, when the parasympathetic nervous system responds to massage your breathing rate slows and becomes deep and regular.

A particularly beneficial way of relieving respiratory issues through massage therapy is tapotement, a rhythmic, percussive stroke used in Swedish massage. When performed on the back, along with vibration and shaking, tapotement can loosen mucus in the lungs and increase airway clearance for better lung function, Williams says.

Not only will massage therapy help relax internal muscles, it can also help individuals become aware of their daily stress levels. Once the body recognizes what true relaxation feels like, the mind can then easily recreate it before stress becomes chronic and damaging. This can also help you enjoy a more balanced life.

Benefits of Improving Breathing

  • Controls breathing in an effort to aid relaxation
  • Allows the mind to re-create relaxation before stress becomes chronic or damaging
  • Increases energy level