The lovely Melanie Bowen of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog contacted me not too long ago, wanting to guest post in this space about the power of healing touch to help cancer patients. While this article is specifically about massage therapy, I have also known patients to get a lot of benefit out of Rubenfeld Synergy Method, which combines the healing touch of massage with exploration and deep dialogue with the body, which many cancer patients may see as having betrayed them. Re-framing and further fostering the relationship with your body as an ally in times of great illness can speed healing, or, in the worst case, help a person come to terms with impending death.
The article Melanie sent was straightforward, supported by research, and said a lot of things I don’t have the scientific expertise to say. Thus, I present her article here in full, and hope you enjoy learning more about the fantastic benefits touch can have for people suffering from cancer and other debilitating illnesses.
Massage therapy can be a very effective and pleasant immune system booster for cancer patients. The fight against cancer of all kinds, including mesothelioma, leukemia, breast or colon cancer, can be daunting, overwhelming and exhausting.
Many of the traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, can leave a cancer patient feeling weak, nauseous and generally unwell. Many of the other cancer medications may also have difficult and unwanted side effects. Cancer patients also may feel a general sense of lassitude as they realize the enormity of their fight against cancer.
Massage therapy offers cancer patients many positive mental and physical effects. Massage therapy has been clinically shown to lower blood pressure, speed the recovery time from surgical procedures, increase circulation, decrease anxiety levels and reduce insomnia. With an increased sense of well-being, massage therapy even offers a cancer patient more energy and optimism with which to fight the disease. The increase in circulation is particularly important for a cancer patient because the enhanced movement of blood and lymphatic fluid helps the body to excise toxins, including cancer cells.
Massage therapy has also been shown to boost the immune system by balancing the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. When we are in a state of heightened alert and crisis, our bodies key up to fight the perceived threat. For a cancer patient, this may be the disease itself or even a battle with the insurance company over needed procedures. Regardless of the specific situation, the body prepares for “battle” by releasing extra stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin.
These stress hormones are very helpful in the short run. In the long run, these same hormones can lower the functioning of the immune system. Massage therapy helps to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and reduce circulating levels of stress hormones in the blood while creating a sense of well-being and peace. When the nervous system is in balance and a cancer patient is able to truly relax, even for an hour or two at a time, the body is better able to fight cancer cells.
Many cancers, including mesothelioma, may require initial surgical intervention. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce the recovery time from surgery, boost the release of endorphins, which are the body’s own natural painkillers, and reduce post-surgical scarring and edema.
Of course, if you suspect that you may have cancer or have been diagnosed with cancer, it is critical that you receive medical care from a competent oncologist. Many types of cancer have a more favorable outcome if the disease is caught in the earlier stages. Waiting too long to seek medical treatment may make a substantial difference in the outcome of the disease.
In addition to professional medical and surgical interventions, receiving regular sessions of massage therapy will help to promote a sense of well-being, boost your immune system, lower anxiety and help you to cope better with the pain and discomfort of many of the traditional cancer treatments. Just relaxing in the serene and comfortable environment of a spa or massage therapy treatment room will allow you to replenish your energy, vitality and optimism.