Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients
For people battling cancer, the same traditional medical treatments that are prescribed to save lives can also become an incredibly grueling experience, both mentally and physically. The well-known side effects of treatments like radiation and chemotherapy include discomfort, nausea, vomiting, chronic pain and hair loss. This is why it is so important to create a comfortable environment for a patient going through cancer treatment, and why so many seek out wellness therapies that can alleviate some of the side effects.
Massage therapy is a popular option for cancer patients to pursue while going through their course of treatment. Not only can massage provide stress relief, but research has further shown that it can equip patients to better handle the difficult physical symptoms such as pain and nausea.
In this post, we share the ways in which massage therapy can make an impactful difference in the lives of cancer patients.
Benefits of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients
Massage therapy cannot treat cancer, nor should it replace traditional treatment. Rather, implementing this practice as a supplemental remedy can provide an array of benefits to cancer patients. Massage therapy has been scientifically proven to have positive effects on physical, mental and emotional health.
The most common benefits of massage for cancer patients include:
- Pain relief
- Nausea relief
- Stress reduction
- Anxiety/depression reduction
- Fatigue reduction
- Improved sleep
- Improved circulation
- Decreased inflammation
Types of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients
Massage therapy is a practice that is deeply rooted in the history of natural healing. A wide variety of massage therapy forms exist and are practiced today, and each comes with their own advantages and drawbacks.
Because cancer treatment can cause pain, inflammation and increased sensitivity to touch, it is recommended that patients consult an oncologist to ensure the technique you select will not cause any further discomfort.
Forms of massage therapy that are commonly recommended for cancer patients include:
- Swedish massage: Designed for relaxation and energy stimulation, Swedish massage is a gentle option for cancer patients who may be prone to bruising.
- Myofascial release: Myofascial release targets trigger points responsible for pain throughout the entire body.
- Heat therapy massage: Also known as thermotherapy, this form of massage uses heat in lieu of or in addition to Swedish style massage strokes. In fact, it has become an increasingly popular feature in premium massage chairs – the best heated massage chairs even have the capability of speeding up the body’s natural recovery process.
- Manual lymphatic drainage: Lymphatic drainage can reduce the swelling caused by fluid buildup after cancer treatment.
Oncology massage therapists are trained professionals that are capable of meeting patients at any stage of their cancer experience to apply exclusive massage treatment and create an actionable plan to treat symptoms. An oncologist can likely recommend a trained oncology massage therapist that patients can rely on to provide a massage treatment plan that will help manage symptoms and increase comfort.
Be Aware of Risks of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients
Massage therapy is not for everyone, and there are cases in which the circumstances may even call for a cancer patient to avoid it altogether. Throughout treatment, cancer patients are often at a higher risk for infection or injury when coming in contact with others or undergoing extended periods of physical touch.
An oncologist will provide patients with the details of how to remain in good health between treatments and share information about anything that could lead to potential complications. The risks of massage therapy for cancer patients can include:
- Skin breakdown
- Dislodge blood clots
At Home Massage Aids for Cancer Patients
While a qualified oncology massage therapist is the best choice, it can be difficult to balance and juggle day-to-day life with treatment, doctor’s visits and the overall exhaustion that comes with cancer. Frequent visits to the massage therapist might just not be a viable option for some. Fortunately, there are many products that can be used at home to assist in comfort and symptom relief – better yet, using these options can be much more cost-effective in the long run.
Massage aids that can be used at home include:
- Massage chairs: Heated massage chairs and zero gravity massage chairs use cutting-edge technology to aid in relaxation – an investment that could be worth making for a long stretch of cancer treatment.
- Massage gun: A massage gun is a useful handheld massage tool to have at home and can be used to reduce inflammation, help relax muscles and decrease soreness.
- Heating pad: Heat is a natural pain reliever and is commonly used to loosen the muscles.
- Aromatherapy: The use of essential oils in aromatherapy has been proven to reduce anxiety, stress and nausea in cancer patients.
Again, remember to consult with your oncologist before trying out these products at home to make sure they are safe to combine with your cancer treatment.
Guest Writer Bio
Jim Coppins is a partner and COO of Massage Chair Store. He has nearly three decades of experience working in product development, sales, marketing, and supply chain logistics for massage chairs and related relaxation products.