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Massage Therapy by Melanie L. Bowen

A Complementary Treatment for Relieving Secondary Symptoms in Cancer Patients

Human touch and therapeutic massage have long been noted for producing significant improvements in physical and emotional well-being. Indeed, massage has a long history of use and effectiveness that dates back to the first time that an early human received an injury and instinctively rubbed the affected area to unconsciously stimulate circulation and release pain-fighting chemicals in the brain. Massage therapists combine this instinctual premise with specific professional training to provide relief of symptoms for their clients.

Benefits of Massage

Massage increases the flow of both blood and lymph within the circulatory system, driving out toxins and oxygenating the body. It may contribute to improved flexibility and suppleness within the muscle fibers and joints. Massage also stimulates the release of potent hormones within the brain that signal a reduction in stress, increased pain tolerance, and an overall sense of well-being. It is believed that the majority of these results are produced by the autonomic nervous system in conjunction with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These systems allow a cascade of chemical messengers, or hormones, to promote stress reduction and positive feelings. In particular, massage decreases the “stress hormone” cortisol and increases the “bonding hormone” oxytocin while releasing pain-relieving endorphins.

Professional Research Supports Cancer-Specific Massage

Patients who are undergoing cancer treatment are particularly prone to physical and emotional manifestations of stress. MD Anderson, a leading facility in the fight against cancer, asserts that oncology massage, under the hands of a trained therapist, can reduce the pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and nausea that may accompany traditional cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society agrees that, while massage does not treat the cancer itself, massage may assist patients in tolerating the stress and discomfort that many experience during cancer treatment.

Indeed, doctors and scientists concur that, when applied by a professional massage therapist with specific training in oncology massage, this complementary treatment may result in a decrease in negative secondary symptoms by up to 50%. While this improvement is noted to be short-term, many cancer centers recommend a massage therapy regiment to produce these benefits repeatedly over time. Indeed, researchers have found that these results are so impressive that they have deemed them clinically significant and called for further study into the specific mechanisms of action.

Special Considerations for Cancer Patients

Individuals who are using massage to cope with the physical and emotional stresses of mesothelioma and other cancers should pay particular attention to the qualifications of the massage therapist. It is wise to seek a therapist who is licensed in massage and trained in specific oncology massage protocols. This training can ensure that the massage provides the best outcomes possible in terms of pain management and symptom relief.

Massage is a beneficial and scientifically proven complementary treatment option for anyone suffering with chronic or specific pain that is physical or emotional in origin. In particular, massage therapy may be particularly effective for assisting individuals undergoing cancer treatment manage discomfort, reduce symptoms of stress, and maintain a high quality of life while coping with a cancer diagnosis.

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