Seattle Massage, Health and Wellness Blog

Manage Cancer Pain with Seattle Massage Therapy

by Thrive on 29 August 2012 at 21:07

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Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States each year. While not all cancer patients experience pain, many of them do. Estimates indicate that between 30 and 50% of all cancer patients experience pain, and nearly 90% of all-end-of life cancer patients deal with pain on an ongoing basis. Managing the pain associated with cancer and different treatments is one of the biggest problems doctors have. Opioids such as morphine, oxycodone and tramadol are effective at minimizing a cancer patient’s discomfort. However, opioids are also highly addictive and can cause nausea, vomiting and constipation. Massage has proven to be a good alternative or complimentary treatment in managing pain associated with cancer. If you are currently dealing with painful symptoms caused by cancer, the massage therapists at Thrive Healing Massage in Seattle may be able to help.

Physical Symptoms Caused By Cancer

massage-therapy-for-cancer-patientsCancer patients experience a wide variety of unpleasant physical symptoms, including: pain, nausea and fatigue. In addition to the physical symptoms, many cancer patients suffer from psychological problems including stress and depression. Many times talks about cancer revolve around overcoming the disease, and handling the physical pain of cancer is an afterthought. Pain and fatigue can lower a cancer patient’s already compromised immune system. Dealing with these issues and making sure that a cancer patient is as comfortable as possible can improve their quality of life.

Dealing with Cancer Pains

Cancer patients report that pain is one of the symptoms they fear the most. However, researchers estimate that nearly 80% of all cancer pain can be managed. In many cases the pain a person experiences is not from the cancer itself, but from radiation and chemotherapy that is used for treatment. For cancer patients undergoing treatment, pain management is one of the primary concerns both the patient and doctor. Massage therapy has become one of the most popular complimentary treatments in managing cancer related discomfort. As of 2000, more than 26% of all cancer patients were incorporating massage therapy into their treatment program. In the decade-plus that has followed, that number has continued to rise.

How Massage Helps with Cancer

Massage therapy works by producing positive effects on the vascular system, nervous system and hormone production. Specifically, massage helps promote:

  • Better circulation
  • Increased production of mood enhancing hormones
  • Reductions in hormones and neurotransmitters associated with pain
  • Promotes relaxation and stress relief
  • Reduces inflammation

While massage therapy has proven to be helpful in managing pain associated with cancer, it is not a replacement for cancer treatment. Massage therapy does not treat cancer; it simply helps improve the quality of a cancer patient’s life by minimizing some of the painful side effects caused by the disease and treatments. Massage offers many benefits for cancer patients, but the primary benefit is pain reduction. Some studies have shown that the effects of massage therapy only last for a few hours after the treatment, and others have shown that a series of treatments provide relief for weeks or months. In addition to pain relief, one study reported that symptoms of fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression dropped by 50% among study participants.

Concerns and Misconceptions about Massage and Cancer

cancer-patients-seek-massage-therapyMassage therapy in cancer patients has proven to be safe for the most part; however, there are things that should be avoided. Cancer patients with advanced osteoporosis should consult with their physician before beginning a massage therapy program. Osteoporosis causes the bones to become brittle and excessive pressure can cause fractures. If your doctor gives the okay to move forward with massage therapy, you should make your massage therapist aware of your condition. Similarly, if you have issues with your veins, such as deep vein thrombosis, massage should only be used after consulting with a doctor. Direct pressure on damaged veins can cause pain, circulation problems and possible ruptures or hematomas. Other issues you should discuss with your doctor and massage therapist include:

  • Bone Fractures
  • Burns
  • Open Wounds
  • Skin Infections

One common misconception surrounding massage therapy and cancer is that it can cause cancer to spread. In years past, it was speculated that the pressure from massage would somehow spread cancerous cells throughout the body. There is no evidence that this is the case. However, it is generally advised to avoid placing direct pressure on a tumor. It is important to let your massage therapist know the location of your tumors so they can avoid them.

Treat Cancer Pain with Seattle Massage Therapy

At Thrive Healing Massage, we provide massage therapy to cancer patients on a near daily basis. Our licensed massage therapists are trained in providing massage to people with cancer and are aware of many of the concerns and issues involved with the treatment. If your doctor has recommended massage therapy as part of your pain management program, contact us today. Our therapists would take great pride in helping you improve the quality of your life during this difficult and stressful time.

Categories: Massage Articles


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