It’s estimated that between 40-50% of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. While breast cancer is the most common type, others may include colon/rectal, endometrial, kidney, leukemia, lung, melanoma (skin), pancreatic, prostate and more. However, a new study suggests that massage therapy may offer both physical and psychological relief for the millions of men and women who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Researchers from the Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center analyzed data from roughly 600 cancer patients, comparing the effects of massage therapy versus conventional care. They found massage therapy to significantly reduce the pain of cancer and chemotherapy treatments, more so than conventional care (source).
“Massage therapy can supply immense physical and psychological relief,” said Dr. Gabriel Lopez of the Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. “As evidenced by the wealth of positive research in the area, massage therapy has the potential to greatly improve quality of life for cancer patients and their caregivers.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time that massage therapy has been linked to reduced pain associated with cancer. A similar study conducted last year found that leukemia patients who received just 50 minutes of deep-tissue Swedish massage three times per week had lower levels of stress, more comfort, and greater all-around relaxation when compared to patients who only received conventional care.
Many cancer patients who receive chemotherapy report adverse side effects such as nausea, pain, muscle aches, weakness and fatigue. When these patients are treated with massage therapy, however, both the frequency and severity of these symptoms begins to subside. It doesn’t take many sessions before patients experience a positive improvement in their symptoms. While the study mentioned above lasted for seven weeks, many patients report an improvement in their symptoms after just a single session of massage therapy.
So, how is massage therapy able to offer such profound benefits for cancer patients? The mechanism behind this beneficial practice remains largely unknown at this time. Some health experts believe it’s attributed to a combination of massage therapy’s stress relieving properties, its ability to stimulate blood flow throughout the body and its ability to trigger the release of pain-relieving hormones. The combination of these elements allows cancer patients to benefit from massage therapy.
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