Articles, Client Education Series

Definition of cancer

Client Education Series 4: Cancer and Massage

April Heath

06/12/2024

There was a time when any history of cancer rendered massage a strict no-no.

In recent years, specific training has been made available to massage therapists interested in working with this population. It’s important for clients/patients who have cancer or are currently undergoing treatment for cancer to compare and contrast contraindications and indications. Let’s begin!

Contraindications:

Active Cancer Treatment (Chemotherapy, Radiation):

Contraindication: Massage therapy may be contraindicated during active cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, due to potential side effects and increased risk of complications. These treatments can weaken the immune system, cause skin sensitivity, and increase the risk of bruising or bleeding, making massage therapy unsafe or uncomfortable. (The Society for Oncology Massage S4OM).

Open Wounds, Lesions, or Skin Irritations:

Contraindication: Massage therapy should be avoided over open wounds, lesions, or areas of skin irritation in individuals with cancer, as it may exacerbate discomfort, increase the risk of infection, or cause further damage to the skin. (“Oncology Massage: An integrative approach to cancer care” by Trish Dryden and Virginia Cowen). 

Indications:

Symptom Management (Pain, Fatigue, Anxiety):

Indication: Massage therapy can be beneficial for managing common symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment, such as pain, fatigue, and anxiety. Gentle massage techniques can help alleviate muscle tension, promote relaxation, and improve overall quality of life.

(“Massage Therapy for Symptom Control: Outcome Study at a Major Cancer Center” published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

Lymphedema Management:

Indication: Manual lymphatic drainage massage and other specialized techniques can be effective for managing lymphedema, a common side effect of cancer treatment characterized by swelling due to lymphatic system dysfunction. (“Manual Lymphatic Drainage for Lymphedema Following Breast Cancer Treatment” published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews).

For a qualified massage therapist with certification or special training in any of these, check AMTA’s Find a Therapist feature.

By understanding these contrasts, massage therapists can make informed decisions and adapt their practice to meet the specific needs and conditions of clients with a history of cancer or undergoing cancer treatment.

New to this Client Education Series? Click here to read the prior post Massage and Cardiovascular Conditions.

Can’t wait to find out more? Click here to learn about Diabetic Neuropathy and Massage

Be well,

April

Book Today: www.joyfulrisingspa.com

Contact: aprilheathlmt@gmail.com

Call/Text: 754.777.9437

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