Pain Intervention: The Therapeutic Power of Touch

Treating cancer is often an invasive process. Chemotherapy treatments, radiation and surgery are generally painful, and can leave someone who is already feeling weak even more fatigued and exposed to greater amounts of pain. Whether you are battling lung cancer, leukemia or mesothelioma you will likely benefit from incorporating pain management techniques to your cancer treatment program. Massage therapy is one type of treatment that uses the power of touch to enhance wellness and healing while alleviating pain.

Massage Therapy for Pain Relief

The use of massage therapy for pain relief is not unique to cancer patients. Therapeutic massage targets muscles and nerve endings in the back, neck, arms and legs to release tension and alleviate pain by relaxing your body’s sensory awareness of pain. Athletes turn to massage therapy for relief after an injury or intense workout so they are able to get back in action faster. Massage therapy is also commonly used for stress relief and in conjunction with medical treatment for chronic pain, arthritis and even migraine headaches.

Massage therapy cannot be used as a sole treatment for cancer. While there are unspoken benefits of touch on the human body, massage therapy alone is not enough to combat cancerous cell growth. Rather than thinking of massage therapy as an alternative treatment for cancer, touch therapy should be looked at as an additional form of treatment to complement any existing medical program.

Massage Therapy as Supportive Care

You might be surprised to learn the health benefits of massage. In addition to being a relaxing and comforting experience, massage therapy has been thoroughly researched as an effective form of supportive treatment.

There are myriad benefits to massage therapy, including:
• Decrease inflammation in the body
• Cause pain medications to feel stronger, enhancing their effect by stimulating nerve responses
• Increase blood flow
• Increase the flow of lymphatic fluid, which is important for patients with lymphoma or breast cancer
• Stimulate endorphin release, which can boost your mood and lessen the feeling of pain

Cancer causes a lot of changes to happen within your body. As weakness and fatigue set in you might find that you bruise easier, are more sensitive to pain and might even experience other injuries easier than you might have in the past. For this reason it is imperative that certain precautions are followed when it comes to using massage therapy for pain relief among cancer patients.

Most massage therapists are aware that they should never massage over an open or visible wound, including bruises. The area where the tumor is located should also be avoided. Too often, tumors put undue pressure on the muscles and organs surrounding them, and applying further pressure can be problematic. Massage therapists are also warned to avoid doing soft tissue massages while patients are undergoing radiation therapy, as the skin is particularly sensitive at that time.

Before you decide to undergo any form of touch therapy it is imperative that you speak with your doctor. While massage therapy is beneficial and ultimately harmless for most forms of cancer treatment, it is always best to double-check before adding anything to your cancer treatment plan.

Thanks to Melanie L. Bowen, 2012


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