Massage Therapy- Cancer Complementary Treatment
Massage therapy has a long history in cultures around the world. Today, people use many different types of massage therapy for a variety of health-related purposes. In the UK, massage therapy is often considered part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), although it does have some conventional uses. This fact sheet provides a general overview of massage therapy and suggests sources for additional information.
What massage therapy is
Massage therapy is a system of treatment that works by stroking, kneading, tapping or pressing the soft tissues of the body. It aims to relax you mentally and physically. It has been used for centuries. Massage may concentrate on the muscles, the soft tissues, or on the acupuncture points.
There are several types of massage
- Swedish massage – most common type of all over body massage
- Aromatherapy massage
- Deep tissue massage – used for long standing, deep muscular problems
- Sports massage – used before or after sport or to help heal sports injuries
- Neuromuscular massage – helps to balance the nervous system and the muscle
- Reflexology – applied to points on the hands and feet with the aim of improving the health of other parts of the body
Massage techniques can range from being soft and gentle to vigorous and brisk. They may sometimes even be a bit uncomfortable.
Gentler forms of massage such as aromatherapy affect your nerve endings, possibly releasing chemicals called endorphins and reducing sensations of pain.
Stronger methods, such as Swedish massage, aim to stimulate your blood circulation and lymphatic system, relax muscles and ease knotted tissues that can cause pain and stiffness.
Massage therapists may treat your whole body, or concentrate on a specific part of the body such as your head, neck or shoulders. Some types of massage such as shiatsu may also gently stretch parts of your body to release stiffness.
One of the main reasons that people with cancer use massage is because it helps them feel good. It is a way they feel they can help themselves. Massage for people with cancer is promoted as a natural way to help you relax and cope with
Generally, massage therapy can help lift your mood, improve your sleep and enhance your well being. There is some evidence to help support these benefits.
On your first visit for a massage, the therapist will ask you some general questions about your health, lifestyle and medical history. If they are concerned that massage may interfere with your health or any medicines you are taking, they may ask if they can contact your GP. This is to check that your GP is happy for you to have massage. In general, it is rare that your doctor will say no.
If you have shiatsu massage you normally lie on soft mats on the floor, fully clothed. With most other massage therapies, you lie on a massage couch (table) for your treatment. You may need to take off your clothes, except for your underwear. Your therapist will then cover you in a gown or large towels, exposing only the parts of your body that they are working on. If you are having a whole body treatment you will lie face down for the first half, and on your back for the rest of the treatment.
Most massage sessions usually last an hour, but this can depend on your therapist. Your therapist might play some relaxing music during the session.
The amount of pressure your therapist applies when massaging you can vary greatly between the types of massage. It is important that you let your therapist know if you feel uncomfortable and want them to stop at any time. However, most people say that having a massage is very relaxing and soothing.
Remember that your therapist should never massage your genital area or touch you in what you feel is a sexual way. If you are uncomfortable at any time during your massage you can stop the session and leave.