What is Oncology Massage?
Oncology Massage therapy is designed for those who have cancer or have had cancer. It is a specialized field of bodywork aimed at reducing the pain and stress of living with cancer.
Is it necessary to have a therapist trained in Oncology Massage?
If you or your loved one has or has had cancer, and are thinking about getting massage, a massage therapists trained in Oncology massage is a wise choice.
There are issues surrounding types of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, ports and pic lines that require special knowledge when giving massage to this special group of individuals.
There is also a protocol that must be used when massaging cancer patients and survivors that addresses the concerns surrounding lymph node removal.
Your therapist should be aware of all these issues, precautions and protocols to ensure a safe and effective massage.
How is Oncology Massage different?
It differs from regular massage in that it is specifically and exclusively comfort oriented massage. What that means is that while many techniques may be utilized, all are used with specific client concerns addressed as needed by the therapist.
There are still instances where massage is not advised (contraindicated), but for the most part it is thought to bring aid and comfort to a group of people that suffer greatly with a debilitating and life threatening illness.
What can I expect during my visit?
For your first visit you will be asked to fill out a brief health history. This form has a section at the bottom of the page specifically for cancer patients. If you are currently going through cancer treatments, these questions will help guide the session more closely.
If you are a survivor of cancer (recent or for many years) this section helps to ensure your safety, especially in the event of significant lymph node loss.
Your therapist will want to know if you are currently on any chemo or radiation therapy. If so, you will need to have obtained consent from your doctor prior to the day of the visit.
Some therapy drugs can have adverse reactions to friction so this is very important. Please let your therapist know if you have any questions or concerns.
After this brief consult, you will be shown to your room. Your therapist will give you the option to have heat on the table.
If you have a port and prefer not to lay on your belly, your therapist will be happy to place you in a side line position when the time comes.
While you can discuss what position may be most comfortable to you, most sessions start face up.
Most people undress fully or down to their under pants. You will get on the table and pull the covers over you up to your shoulders or neck.
When your therapist comes in she will place a heated neck pillow under your head to make you feel more comfortable. Of course this is an option. You may also be given the option to add some aroma therapy to your session.
Since this is “comfort oriented” massage the pressure used will range from light to medium. Some people feel they can handle deeper pressure, but if you are on medication or going through radiation treatments that may be ill advised.
Since your body is already having to fight cancer, detox from meds, and heal existing wounds above or below the skin, deep pressure may add stress to the body it can not handle. You may actually feel worse after the massage than you did before the massage. That said, your therapist will be happy to speak with you about it.
Some therapist use massage oils and some use massage creams. If you have a preference, please let your therapist know when you arrive. Most massage appointments will be very similar to a relaxation massage.
The therapist will massage the head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, legs, feet and back. Of course adjustments will be made to accommodate medical devices, open lesions, and extremely tender points.
If you are uncomfortable at ANYTIME please let your therapist know immediately. If you want to stop the massage at ANYTIME please let your therapist know immediately. Our main concern is to bring you comfort.
If the massage is not doing that then is should be stopped and the session resumed at another more appropriate time. Remember, this is about your comfort not the comfort of the therapist!
Massage produces a para-sympathetic or “rest and digest” response in the body. What this means is that by relaxing and letting go of stress, you have given your body permission to heal.
So during this time you may experience a need to cry, laugh, or sleep. You may become flatulent or need to use the bathroom. All of these potential bodily or emotional experiences are normal while in “rest and digest” mode.
As a massage therapists trained in oncology massage, we understand these things can happen and want you to feel at ease in any of these situations.
It is not our job to judge, but rather to facilitate healing in all its forms.
Cancer patients and health workers report the following benefits at almost every stage of the illness:
- Increased feelings of well-being and normalcy
- Decreased sense of isolation
- Positive social interaction
- Faster wound and scar healing
- Decreased pain medication
- Promote bowel activity (in some cases relief from constipation or diarrhea)
- Decrease in edema and lymph edema due to improved blood and lymph circulation
- Relief from muscle soreness due to test procedures and prolonged bed rest
- Helps prevent pressure sores
- Reduced symptoms cancer treatment side effects such as fatigue and nausea
- Decreased length of hospital stay
Massage should never be given to cancer patients (especially during treatment ) without consent from his/her doctor.
Therapist should request a history intake form and conduct brief consult with the massage therapist prior to the massage.
Giving massage to a cancer patient fully clothed can be risky. Radiation and chemotherapy can cause rashes, lesions or tender spots that if not seen or addressed could cause additional pain and suffering to the patient.
If you experience any adverse effects during or post massage, always let the therapist know.
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