Can Therapeutic Massage Help Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy?

Every year, about 650,000 patients turn to chemotherapy as a way to battle cancer. In chemotherapy, drugs called cytostatics that can kill or slow the fast-growing cancer cells are given orally or infused. While the cytostatics usually perform as expected, they can also kill healthy cells -- especially those in bone marrow, hair follicles and the digestive tract.

Every person has an individual response to chemotherapy that is dependent on how healthy they were before starting treatment, how advanced their cancer is and what type of chemotherapy is being used. Still, there are common side effects that include fatigue, weakness, nausea and vomiting, nerve problems and pain. 

Treating the Side Effects of Chemotherapy with Massage

While medical professionals often have an arsenal of medications that can minimize the side effects that chemo causes, good results in reducing side effects can also come from alternative therapies. One of the most promising is therapeutic massage, which is shown to statistically reduce these side effects in a new study published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. 

Participants who had their hands or feet massaged by a licensed massage therapist (LMT) for 20 minutes after their chemotherapy sessions were positive about the results in reducing their most dreaded side effects like nausea and pain.

Other studies have focused on the need to help patients relax so they can avoid or reduce some of the most common chemo side effects. One type of therapeutic massage with ice reduced nausea and vomiting by 45 percent compared to a control group.

Helping to Boost the Immune System

Another side effect of chemotherapy drugs is that they can damage the immune system. Typically, the bone marrow cells stop reproducing properly, and both red and white blood cells are reduced. Because white blood cells help stop infection and viruses, a shortage can mean your body is unable to fight off colds and other diseases.

Fortunately, massage can help here, too. Studies done on mice show that massage-like stroking done by hand (not using a brush) boosts their immune systems with increased T cells, a certain type of white blood cell. 

Even if massage weren't helpful in these ways, there are also results that show it can improve overall quality of life in cancer patients, even those nearing the end of life. Therapeutic massage reduces pain associated with some types of metastatic cancer and can help patients cope with related issues.

Talk to your oncologist or massage therapist about the benefits of massage for cancer patients, particularly those undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Contact a company like Mana Massage for more information.