Today it is rare to find someone who has not been touched by cancer in some way.
Cancer can be an isolating, frighting experience. For people with cancer, and those with a history of cancer, massage therapy can be profoundly beneficial.
While massage can NOT cure cancer, massage is commonly used to help people to feel better, to alleviate some of the symptoms of cancer, and to reduce the side effects of treatment.
Treatments are given in a warm and relaxed environment. Each person is assessed individually, and the massage is adjusted to meet the needs of their clinical presentation. For example, one use for massage is to prepare the body mentally and physically for up-coming treatment of chemotherapy or radiation. Flexible treatments allow for full length or shorter sessions, and are modified to be as nurturing as possible. Tumor and/or radiation sites are never massaged, as they are too sensitive.
Shiatsu massage has its own unique understanding of the body and balance, springing from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC). TMC is based on acupuncture principals, of energetic pathways that flow through organs inside the body. Using this as a base I also draw from other techniques and massage therapy modalities as required.
A large American study (1) published in 2004 looked at the effects of massage therapy on almost 1300 cancer patients over a three year period. People in hospital had a 20-minute massage, and people treated as outpatients had a 60-minute session. The study found that overall, massage therapy reduced pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression. The benefits lasted longer in the patients who had the 60-minute session.
In the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC), cancer is a systemic disease associated with a weakened state of the whole body, and is not a localized disease of cells or organs. The goal in the treatment of cancer is to improve the whole body’s condition, rather than only removing the tumor or cancerous cells. Therefore, individual therapy is necessary to assess the patient’s condition and symptoms, which are thought of as stagnation of blood and/or Qi (vital energy). This means that we are working to boost the immune system and bring the body into balance.
With therapeutic massage, TCM and Western medicine can work hand-in-hand, integrating both therapies, and creating holistic synergies. Clinical research has shown that this combined approach is more effective than using either Western or Chinese therapies exclusively.