Massage Therapy and Cancer
You might be recovering from cancer or wanting to prevent it, and wondering if massage therapy is right for you. Well, not only is massage possible for you while you're recovering from cancer, it can also work to help with getting you feeling better, and can potentially even help prevent your cancer from coming back. Too good to be true? Actually, no it's not.
Massage therapy, when performed by a registered massage therapist (RMT), has several benefits that may not seem obvious. You probably know, or at least aren't surprised by the fact that massage can help release the tension and stress in your muscles. And it probably also doesn't surprise you to hear that massage can help you sleep better. But in addition to helping your muscles relax and aid you in sleeping, massage can help to reduce pain – whether it's pain caused by cancer or another condition. Furthermore, massage can help relieve you of headaches you may be experiencing as a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation, and can even help to loosen up congestion, constipation, and mucous in your lungs.
Some people laud massage therapy for the simple benefit it provides regarding touch. If you're a cancer patient and/or survivor, you might have experienced a real hesitancy from people to touch you. Whether they're afraid of somehow contracting the illness from you or simply don't want to hurt you by touching you, the outcome can make you feel immensely deprived. Massage is great because your professional RMT knows how to ask you about what pressure you need, and is trained in determining what methods of massage will work best for you.
It is actually a combination of effects that makes massage so beneficial. For one, and especially with repeated sessions, massage can help stimulate your brain to produce more endorphins, those chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, reduce your feelings of stress, and even make your pain seem less significant. Also, massage helps promote circulation, nerve conduction and lymphatic drainage, all helpful in removing pain-causing 'debris' in your muscles leftover from inflammation. And while inflammation is often caused by torn muscle tissue, it can also be caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Note that if you have cancer that has spread to your bones, or have another type of bone condition that could weaken your bones, you should opt for only light massage to prevent a fracture. Also, if you've had radiation therapy even light touch may be uncomfortable. If you have a tumour, a heart condition, a low blood platelet count because of chemotherapy, or if you're taking blood-thinning medication, be sure to consult with your doctor before getting a massage. So even though you may have to take some precautions or talk with your doctor first, there should at least a modified way of getting the massage therapy that you need. So enjoy a good massage today!
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
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