Benefits and Safety of Undergoing a Massage During Chemotherapy

Feeling Good and Relaxing With Massage When Getting Chemo

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Some people find that undergoing massage during chemotherapy treatment helps them relax and feel good during an uneasy time. Let's explore the benefits of massage and what precautions you should discuss with your doctor before undergoing this soothing practice. 

The Benefits of Massage Therapy During Chemotherapy

Massage therapy can be a great way to relax and distract oneself from the stresses of cancer treatment.

Chemotherapy can certainly heighten anxiety, and this can be a great way to relieve it. In fact, many doctors recommend massage as a form of complementary medicine to help people with cancer relax, reduce anxiety, combat nausea, and control pain. It's important to understand though that massage therapy is not a form of cancer treatment and will not prevent cancer from spreading or slow its growth.

Safety of Massage Therapy During Chemotherapy

Massages during cancer treatment may not be for everyone. Be sure to get your doctor's approval before having a massage. While a massage may seem harmless, it can be unsafe under certain circumstances. 

For example, since chemotherapy can compromise your immune system, you are more vulnerable to infection. If you do undergo a massage, ensure that your massage therapist is not ill or suffering from a contagious ailment. It's also important that the therapist maintains a hygienic, clean environment and sanitize the massage table after each client.

Also, if you have any sores, acne, or other skin eruptions, ask your therapist to avoid touching them during the massage — this is to avoid pain and infection. 

It's also important to note that chemotherapy may increase your risk of bruising, and a massage a few days following chemo during the nadir period could worsen this effect.

Finally, if you have any bone metastasis, massage isn't recommended for that area of your body as fractures, or breaks in the bone, may occur.

What Should I Do if I Decide to Get a Massage During Chemotherapy?

If your doctor allows you to have a massage, ask him to refer you to a licensed massage therapist (LMT) — even better if your massage therapist has experience working with clients undergoing cancer treatment. In addition, many cancer treatment centers offer massage therapy and other complementary therapies and may have a LMT on staff. 

Sources:

Bilhult A, Stener-Victorin E & Bergborn I. The experience of massage during chemotherapy treatment in breast cancer patients. Clin Nurs Res. 2007 May;16(2):85-99. 

Lively, BT et al. Massage therapy for chemotherapy-induced emesis in Rich, GJ, ed. Massage therapy: The evidence for practice. Edinburgh: Mosby, 85-104, 2002.

Sagar SM, Dryden T, & Wong RK. Massage therapy for cancer patients: a reciprocal relationsip between body and mind. Curr Oncol. 2007 Apr;14(2):45-56.

Weiger, WA et al.. Advising patients who seek complementary and alternative medical therapies for cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2002 Dec 3;137(11):889-903. 

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