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For many patients battling cancer, pain is one of the most pressing concerns. Up to 90% of cancer patients report sensations of pain stemming from their diagnosis, and relief isn't always easy to find. Could massage therapy be the answer?

Understanding Cancer Pain

While not all people battling cancer will experience pain, many do struggle with cancer pain on a daily basis. This pain can disrupt sleep patterns and affect your appetite, but it can also make you feel angry, hopeless or sad about your condition. Cancer pain can affect the way you interact with your loved ones, but this pain can be treated.

Pain can be caused by the cancer itself, depending on its type and its stage. Treatments, surgical interventions and invasive tests can be other causes of pain.

Nerve damage can result from certain kinds of chemotherapy treatment, tumor growth, infections, vitamin deficiencies and some comorbid medical conditions, like diabetes. It's important to let your care team know when you're experiencing any kind of pain, particularly if it's accompanied by these symptoms:

  • Burning
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Clumsiness 
  • Unusual sensations in the extremities

It's also important to note that many tests used during the diagnostic and treatment phases are invasive and can be quite painful. This pain can be treated, so be sure to request treatment from your care team if a procedure is causing you to feel pain.

How Massage Therapy Can Treat Cancer Pain

Though it's important for those suffering from cancer pain to work with a licensed massage therapist who understands the unique demands of caring for those with cancer, massage therapy can be a very effective treatment. In fact, massage can address several issues commonly faced by those battling cancer.

First and foremost, the massage process can aid in the reduction of musculoskeletal pain. At the same time, levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop, and serotonin levels rise. The immediate benefit can be a deep feeling of relaxation, a break from the stress and anxiety of your health condition. 

Patients who were treated weekly by a massage therapist for twelve weeks reported up to 50% lower scores on pain, anxiety, nausea, stress and fatigue scales. This is an effective treatment for not just cancer pain, but many side effects and symptoms which have a negative effect on patients' quality of life.

For most patients, even those battling cancer, massage is a low-risk treatment with high potential for relief in many areas. In fact, many cancer treatment centers keep massage therapists on staff or provide massage as part of an overall care plan because research does show it can play an important role in the process of treatment. 

Speaking with your care team about the benefit of integrating massage therapy into your treatment plan may allow you relief from not just your cancer pain, but a host of unpleasant symptoms, side effects and comorbid conditions. Best of all, it can provide that pain, anxiety and stress relief without adding another prescription to the list.

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Massage Therapy, Hematology Oncology


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