Massage therapy is one of the most common alternative therapies offered to patients in a clinical setting to help relieve the pain associated with cancer. Massage is often used in conjunction with other pharmacological and non-pharmacological pain treatments, such as these listed by this pain clinic in Minnesota.
Massage use in the clinical setting has been associated with relieving pain, encouraging relaxation and reducing anxiety. Massage carries out a manipulation of the soft tissues of the body, which produces effects on the vascular, muscular and nervous system. However, massage therapy contraindications for cancer have been raised as it was suggested that the massaging of the soft tissues of the body could help spread the cancer through the circulatory and lymphatic systems.
Many studies have proven that the stimulation of these systems, via massage, is no more than what would be caused by gentle daily exercise. However message directly over the tissue of a tumor is not recommended due to associated localized pain.
Although not contraindicated for cancer treatment, research suggests that in some cases of cancer, massage technique should be adjusted, for example, in patients with coagulation disorders. Deep tissue muscle massage should be replaced by a lighter tissue massage, as not to influence the development of DVT’s, hematomas and superficial bruising.
Massage for relief of cancer pain, is rarely used alone to treat cancer pain; however with other pain relieving therapies it is considered an effective and safe practice. Although like any treatment, it is not risk free, there are very few reports of patients suffering adverse effects secondary to massage therapy for cancer pain. Also, unlike pharmacological treatment for cancer pain, massage therapy does not carry the side effects of nausea and constipation.
Some precautions need to be taken when providing massage therapy to a cancer patient, however treatment is not considered high risk or dangerous.