Important Massage Benefits For Cancer Patients
By Melanie L. Bowen
Massage therapy has been shown to be very beneficial for cancer patients. In addition to battling the physical disease, when you have cancer, you have to fight depression, anxiety, anger, and stress. The emotional turmoil can take a toll on your body, and even hinder your progress through your course of treatment. Something as simple as massage may be able to help you cope with both emotional and physical symptoms. However, it is a good idea to get approval from your oncologist before you undergo massage.
If nothing else, massage can lift your spirits. It provides hands-on human contact and that can be reassuring. It can also make you feel pampered, and temporarily take your mind off your cancer diagnosis. Because it lifts your mood, massage could be a great help in your battle against depression.
When you get a diagnosis of mesothelioma, pancreatic cancer, or any other serious form of the disease, it is only natural to experience anxiety. Anxiety causes you to breathe shallowly and hold tension in your muscles. A good massage will help you slow down your breathing and loosen muscle tension so you feel much more relaxed physically.
When you are more relaxed, you will be able to sleep better. Many people with cancer suffer from insomnia because of medications or worry. However, restorative sleep is important to rebuilding your health. If massage helps you sleep better, you may be able to tolerate your treatments better.
Massage may also boost your immune system. PubMed reported on a study carried out by the University of Miami where researchers looked for a link between massage and improved immune function in women with breast cancer. The results found that cancer patients may benefit from having a massage three times a week. The women they studied had higher levels of dopamine, serotonin, NK cells, and lymphocytes. These test results show the subjects were experiencing improved immune function and fewer mood disturbances.
Massage has also been linked to improved lymphatic flow. A healthy lymph system is vital for a strong immune system as it circulates white blood cells throughout the body so they can destroy infectious organisms. Massage may also be able to help alleviate pain. Pain is a very common symptom that people with cancer experience. Massage can induce relaxation that may help lessen pain. The massage therapist may even be able to manipulate pressure points on the body that works to relieve pain in a manner similar to acupuncture.
Nausea is an extremely common and annoying symptom in cancer patients. The cancer itself may cause it, but in many cases, the drugs used to treat cancer cause it. Massage may be able to help reduce nausea in the same way it relieves pain, through relaxation and stimulation of the proper acupressure points.
A side benefit of massage therapy for cancer patients is the reduced need for medications. If massage can manage anxiety, nausea, and pain, it might be possible to cut down on some of the medications you take to treat those conditions. By taking fewer medications, you may experience less nausea and other unpleasant side effects. Of course, you should never cut down or stop taking any medications without talking to your doctor first.
One good thing about massage is that it doesn’t always have to be done by a professional. A family member can massage your feet, head, or shoulders during the day, any time you feel pain, nausea, or stress coming on. That way you may be able to ward them off, or lessen their severity.
While massage therapy has been deemed generally safe for cancer patients, there are some contraindications. For example, when you undergo radiation treatments, your skin may be too tender to touch. Your doctor may also advise you not to massage the area directly around the cancer site. So while a family member can massage certain parts of your body at home, and you can even do self-massages to a certain degree, it is recommended to see a professional massage therapist for a medical massage so you get the proper treatment and receive optimal benefits from it. Consult your doctor today and see if massage therapy is right for you!