Massage therapy is one of the most common relaxing techniques. Oncology massage therapy involves many styles of massage in a session to help patients manage the symptoms of cancer and side effects of conventional treatment. A therapist educated in oncology massage should give massages to a cancer patient. Massage therapy incorporates pressing, rubbing, and kneading of the muscles and soft tissues.

Therapeutic massage is gaining popularity as an alternative medical treatment programs to reduce symptoms of cancer and improve coping and managing side effects of conventional treatment. Massage therapy involves physical manipulations in a systematic way. It may vary in intensity, direction, rate, and rhythm.

Different types of massage techniques have evolved from various cultural traditions. Swedish massage, trigger-point therapy or myotherapy, acupressure, neuromuscular therapy, movement re-education, Shiatsu or finger pressure,  reflexology, Jin- Thai massage and polarity therapy are some of the most used massage techniques.

Though available scientific evidence does not support massage therapy to be capable of treating cancer, it can be used as a complementary therapy for managing symptoms of cancer and side effects of conventional treatment.

Uses of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients

Massage therapy is used to manage physical and emotional symptoms in cancer patients. It is beneficial for cancer patients in reducing level of pain, elevating mood and improving quality of life. Massage therapist specialized in oncology massages provide this therapy to cancer patients to improve sleep and decrease pain, fatigue and stress.

Massage therapy helps in relaxation, reducing muscle tension and improving lymphatic functions. It also reduces anxiety and depression and improves immune function.

Cancer patients use massage for getting rid of pain and stiffness and restoring muscles and increasing their mobility. It is claimed that massage can trigger production of endorphins to elevate mood. It is also said to be capable of increasing blood circulation; improving stamina and correcting posture imbalances.

Side Effects of Massage Therapy

Massage given by a trained practitioner is normally very safe. But some patients may experience bruising, swelling, increased muscular pain, or allergic reactions. Some patients may suffer fractures and dislocations, internal hemorrhage and hepatic hematoma if any untrained person gives massage. Other complications may include dislodging of deep venous thromboses and embolism of the renal artery, and displacement of a ureteral stent.

People with rheumatoid arthritis, cancer that has spread to the bone, spine injuries, osteoporosis, or other bone diseases should avoid massage as it could worsen their condition. People undergoing radiation therapy may feel massage as uncomfortable and patients allergic with certain massage oils can feel irritation. Massaging adjoining tissues to tumor can increase the risk of cancer cells moving to other parts of the body

Trained massage therapist should give massage and he should be aware of the cancer patient’s condition. Practitioners should know if a patient has coagulation disorders, low platelet count, bruising and internal hemorrhage, metastases to bone, fracture, open wounds, radiation dermatitis, pain and infection. Patients should consult their oncologist before taking massages. Patients should not rely solely on massage therapy for cancer treatment, as it cannot treat the disease.