By Rebekah Frizzelle-Owens, LMT, BCTMB, CIMI, CPMT
Touch is an important part of life – it is part of what makes us human and makes us whole. Studies have shown that when someone doesn’t get enough caring touch in their lives, they can begin to psychologically wither and grow “touch starved.” Cancer treatments are life-saving, but can also leave patients feeling isolated, anxious, stressed, and more. Massage can help!
Video courtesy Maryland Proton Treatment Center.
Studies have shown that massage is beneficial to patients receiving cancer treatments by:
However, for patients with cancer or who have had cancer, the body needs a different kind of touch. An oncology massage uses "just enough" pressure to not tax the body further and takes into account each patient's unique circumstances, making accommodations for a safe and effective massage. So, typically there are no negative side effects.
The type of therapeutic massage provided to patients at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center is called oncology massage, which is slightly different than a regular massage. The therapist uses a firmness that is adjusted to the patient’s preference in order to achieve maximum benefit while remaining safe, but in general tends to be lighter than a typical massage. Generally, the goals include the benefits listed above, but others may be discussed before the session starts. Deep tissue work is not recommended for cancer patients.
Based on location of ports, ostomy bags, tubes, or other devices, as well as the location of the radiation site, the therapist will modify positioning on the table with pillows and other props. This may include side-lying, on the back (prone), and/or face down (supine). The patient will work with the therapist to create a safe and comfortable position for the massage.
For patients receiving proton therapy, no lotion will be used to the radiation site less than 4 hours prior to treatment, but most likely that area will be avoided other than a gentle touch over a sheet, if appropriate.
Massage at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center
The massage therapist is part of a team of experts in integrative therapies and works closely with MPTC doctors, radiation therapists, and staff to ensure our patients receive the best care possible. Before a patient may receive a massage, they must first have their Integrative Wellness Consultation, which is part of their overall care plan at MPTC, and get approval for therapeutic massage. The massage therapist will use her expertise, the recommendations of the physicians and other team members, and most importantly the preferences of the patient to create a massage treatment plan that will be both safe and beneficial.
Please notify our staff and the massage therapist PRIOR to the massage if you have any of the following conditions:
CONTRAINDICATED – sorry, no massages:
Seated massages are shorter in length – about 10-15 minutes. The patient, who sits on a special chair, stays fully clothed. It is recommended that bulky layers be removed because they make it hard to feel the massage. Tight skirts are not recommended because of positioning. A seated massage includes back, shoulders, sometimes neck and arms/hands, and occasionally the head, if requested.
Benefits are very similar to a table massage, but the shorter duration tends to refresh and rejuvenate rather than cause deep relaxation.
Massage for Pediatric Patients
Pediatric patients can especially benefit from massage, but it isn’t a 60-minute lying-flat-on-a-table massage. Pediatric patients most often benefit from being touched by their parents in short sessions wherever they are most comfortable. Our massage therapist is certified in pediatric massage and infant massage instruction. She is happy to teach parents some simple and safe techniques they can use to comfort their child – and this empowers the parent by giving them tools to help their child feel better.
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From the University of Maryland, Baltimore Graduate School: