It’s well known that massage therapy can provide health benefits to your mind, body, and spirit, but it is also true that there are specialized modalities within massage therapy suited to certain audiences. One such modality is Oncology Massage.

This type of massage therapy has been designed specifically for people undergoing cancer treatment and those working through the recovery process. It is also used for patients who will have lasting effects from their treatment, long term. This type of massage is known for providing a relaxing experience for clients and for offering various benefits.

Today we’re going to do a deep dive into what oncology massage is, why we provide it at Vinings Massage, and how it could help you or your loved one feel better!

What Is Oncology Massage?

The Society for Oncology Massage describes oncology massage as “The modification of existing massage therapy techniques in order to safely work with complications of cancer and cancer treatment.” Oncology massage can help alleviate some of the symptoms and side effects related to cancer and cancer treatment. In providing this type of massage therapy, our goal is to improve quality of life for people during their cancer journey, as they recover and throughout hospice care, if that is where the journey leads them.

This sounds straightforward, but the key here is that it is not simply using the techniques taught in your typical massage therapy program. A few of the main modifications are:

  1. Slowing the speed of massage strokes – this will target the body’s natural relaxation response and help the body/mind come out of fight or flight mode. The hope is that once we get the client/patient out of this mode, we can give the body more space and energy to devote to healing and/or fighting the disease.
  2. Shortening or lengthening the massage session(s) – this will depend on the severity of treatment-related side effects and/or disease-related complications the client/patient is experiencing. Each session is customized specifically to individual clients/patients. We can work with a client/patient for a very short time, as little as 5-10 minutes or we can work with that client/patient for a long session of 60 minutes, 90 minutes, or more. We can do a full body massage or we can work specifically on one area.
  3. Where we see our clients/patients – we can work in various environments:
    1. At people’s homes
    2. Intensive care units
    3. Massage therapy clinics or spas
    4. Hospice centers and/or at home during hospice care
    5. Hospitals – visiting clients/patients in their hospital rooms
    6. Infusion centers – while the patient is waiting for and/or receiving their infusions
  4. Positioning of the client/patient – There are many factors that contribute to this. Things like surgically implanted medical ports, surgery sites, and disease-related pain or fragility. Regardless of the circumstances, we work hard to ensure we can get every client/patient safely and comfortably positioned. Whether in a hospital bed, on a massage table, in their favorite chair at home, in the infusion center, or at their doctor’s office.

Our trained oncology Massage Therapists focus on creating a caring, nurturing environment for each client. They make it a priority to build a supportive relationship and discuss the needs of every client/patient so anyone can experience a massage customized to your unique situation.

So what exactly are the benefits of oncology massage?

Oncology massage research has been conducted to discover how to help people combat the side effects of cancer treatment as well as the hardships of living with cancer. There are 5 main physical benefits that have been researched the most. They are:

  1. Improving sleep quality
  2. Decreasing nausea and fatigue
  3. Helping to decrease the intensity of CIPN (Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy)
  4. Decreasing anxiety during individual treatments as well as overall
  5. Decreasing the intensity of chronic pain, relieving the physical manifestation of pain, as well as calming the nervous system

In addition to the physical benefits, there are many emotional benefits to receiving an oncology massage. These benefits include:

  • Experiencing a sense of calmness and clarity
  • Experiencing elevated moods, especially directly after the massage
  • Finding a safe place/type of treatment in the midst of many painful and scary treatments. We meet the client/patient where they are which helps them feel safe. For many clients/patients, it becomes a good place to let go of the stress and anxiety they are holding on to
  • Emotional Release(s). Sometimes an emotional release looks like tears, but other times it can feel like an intense feeling of letting go. These benefits can last for several days after the massage. With oncology massage incorporated into your care plan, these benefits can last for the entire cancer journey. Often patients don’t even realize the amount of stress, anxiety, sadness, and emotional pain they have been holding onto until they experience an emotional release.

Offering Oncology Massage In and Out of the Office

In addition to the work we do at our office, we also routinely go on-site at Piedmont Hospital. There, we visit patients who are receiving active treatment and provide oncology massages for them. This service is available free of charge to any individual experiencing cancer, regardless of where they are in their cancer journey.

The Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness program at Piedmont is one of the region’s leading providers in comprehensive cancer services. They do amazing work and help anyone affected by cancer, and we’re proud to support them.

The Importance of Continued Education

We believe in the importance and potential of Oncology Massage in the treatment plan(s) of anyone experiencing cancer. This is why we are proud to provide additional training and classes to a select group of our massage therapists this upcoming January. This will allow us to provide a higher volume of oncology massage at our Vinings location as well as give us the ability to expand our hospital programs in 2022. This will allow us to have a larger impact on our community and that of the greater metro Atlanta area.

If you or a loved one is currently undergoing cancer treatment, we encourage you to reach out and learn more about this type of treatment. Together, we can help you feel supported as you experience the benefits of this type of massage therapy.

If you would like to learn more about our Oncology Massage services or how to support organizations like The Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness program at Piedmont, please give us a call at 404-492-8582 or email us at [email protected] for additional information.