Receiving massage on a regular basis is great for people in good health. However, massage can also be beneficial for those with more serious illnesses. Studies have shown that cancer patients receiving regular massage have decreased levels of stress, anxiety, depression, pain and fatigue during their treatment. While massage is not considered treatment on its own, many health care professionals acknowledge that massage can be useful as a noninvasive, complimentary therapeutic addition to treatment.
Massage is generally performed by trained massage therapists. Caregivers and family members can also be trained in safe massage techniques to allow for the massage to be done at home. Regular massage can be used to relieve muscle pain and stiffness, as well as increasing mobility and reducing pain from headaches and backaches.
During a massage, the body raises the production of endorphins and helps to flush lactic acid out of muscles. Lactic acid is a waste product that muscles produce as they are worked. Massage also helps with muscle recovery, breaking up scar tissue, and pain relief. The pain relief aspect of massage reduces the need for pain medication, allowing those going through cancer treatment to have one last pill to take. While massage helps with symptom management and overall improvement of health, it does not slow or reverse the growth of cancerous cells.
Those with bone problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis or bone cancer, osteoporosis or other bone disease, could see their symptoms worsen by physical manipulation and should avoid the deeper pressure massages. Patients undergoing chemotherapy have shown to be more susceptible to allergic reactions from lotions and oils often used in a massage, as well as have a tendency to bruise easier than those without any blood thinning medications.
The potential benefits are often promising for people with cancer, who deal with the stress of the illness and the unpleasant side effects of conventional treatment. Studies support massage for short term symptom relief, but there is not enough research to tell if there is any measurable long-term benefits. Just like any form of treatment, it is best to inform your medical care provider that you are interested in pursuing massage as a complimentary therapy.