Getting a positive diagnosis for cancer is sufficient cause in itself for anxiety. The longer it lasts, the more treatments are required. And consequently, the anxiety levels will likely soar. As MassageTherapy.com explains, “…frequently pain and anxiety reinforce each other, leading to chronic distress.”
There are many symptoms for various forms of cancer, and different associated side effects from their respective treatments. But, believe it or not, massage therapy can be an effective method of reducing anxiety levels in cancer patients.
Why is it Important to Reduce Anxiety in Cancer Patients with Massage Therapy?
In order to fight cancer most effectively, a body needs to be at its strongest. Not only does the disease itself take a toll on your body but treatments like radiation and chemotherapy also weaken it further. But the kicker is that the physical pain and emotional distress caused by all of that will sap strength even more! And that’s where massage therapy can help.
CancerResearchUK.org reports that out of the many studies, which looked at how effective it was in treating a variety of cancer symptoms, “The strongest evidence equivocally suggests that massage contribute to lowering anxiety.”
Since it is known to cause stress, headaches and other kinds of pain, reducing anxiety may also reduce or eliminate those symptoms, as well. Additionally, all of those factors are commonly the cause for lack of refreshing sleep, which is vital to helping a body remain strong. So just reducing anxiety could cause a domino effect whose end result is allowing a patient to hold on to strength rather than allowing it to slip away.
Therefore, if massage therapy is used to reduce anxiety in cancer patients, it has a direct impact on the patient’s ability to remain strong in its fight against the disease. Certainly, no one would suggest that massage therapy cures cancer. But it is arguably a powerful weapon in a patient’s arsenal for survival.
How Should Massage be Used to Reduce Anxiety in Cancer Patients
Gentle massage techniques affect nerve endings, which release endorphins that can reduce pain, while stronger methods will stimulate blood circulation and the lymphatic system as well as ease knotted muscles and tissues, which can be painful and cause stiffness.
Although CancerResearchUk.org suggests that people with cancer must, at any cost, avoid deep massage, and offers other cautions, which may be relevant to certain patients.
“If you are having radiotherapy you must always make sure the treated area never receives massaging therapy. And don’t massage any particular area of your body where the skin is broken, bleeding or bruised.”
Cancer patients, or their massage therapists, should always check with the patient’s doctor to make sure that massage therapy is allowed. In most cases, however, unlike medications to treat anxiety, massage therapy doesn’t have any side effects for most people.
The Australian Cancer Council notes, “Individuals who have had massages during cancer treatments have reported a range of positive outcomes such as improvements in: sleep, the health of the scar tissue, quality of life, mental clarity and alertness, the range of movement.” So certainly many people will find a variety of benefits of massage therapy during cancer treatments.
Although they warn that, “Tumour or treatment sites should not be massaged to avoid discomfort or pressure on the affected area and underlying organs.”, the organization also offers assurance that cancer patients need have no fear of massage therapy spreading cancer.
Cancer is known to spread by genetic mutation of cells and other processes of the body. Even if there is cancer in the lymphatic system itself, stimulating it with massage will not make the cancer spread. If anything, the stimulation may strengthen it.
All in all, if proper care and precautions are taken with permission from a medical professional, massage therapy can provide a great deal of help in fighting cancer, not the least of which is its proven strength in reducing anxiety.
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