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Exploring Massage Therapy’s Role in Cancer Care

Massage in Cancer Care

  1. Pain Reduction in Breast Cancer Patients: Oncology Massage vs. Healing Touch

  2. Relief from Lymphedema Symptoms: Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Study

  3. Alleviating Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathy: Impact of Oncology Massage

  4. Empowering Cancer Patients: Benefits of Massage Therapy

  5. Research Citations

Pain Reduction for Breast Cancer Patients After Oncology Massage Therapy

An integrative oncology team conducted a study at Levine Cancer Institute, comparing massage therapy and healing touch as pain interventions for breast cancer patients. Of 407 participants, 43% received oncology massage and 57% healing touch, both experiencing significant reductions in pain levels. (Gentile et al., 2021)

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Relieves Lymphedema Symptoms

In a 2022 study, manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) demonstrated positive effects on upper limb lymphedema in post-breast cancer surgery patients. Notably, participants experienced reduced swelling, improved hand and arm symptoms, and decreased risk of cellulitis. (Chmelova & Novackova, 2022)

Oncology Massage Alleviates Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathy

A 2022 study on oncology massage’s impact on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy revealed significant improvements. Patients receiving massage three times a week exhibited better relief of neuropathy symptoms than those receiving it twice a week. (Lopez et al., 2022)

Massage Therapy Empowers Cancer Patients

Massage therapy serves as an integral part of cancer care, empowering patients by reducing isolation, alleviating symptoms, and managing self-care. Its benefits extend from pain management to relieving lymphedema, aiding patients in regaining control amidst their cancer journey.

Research Citations

[1] Cancer Facts & Figures 2023, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia, 2023

[2] Gentile D, Boselli D, Yaguda S, Greiner R, Bailey-Dorton C. “Pain Improvement After Healing Touch and Massage in Breast Cancer: An Observational Retrospective Study.” Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2021 Mar; 14 (1): 12-20 [Link] [3] Chmelova K, Novackova M. “Effect of manual lymphatic drainage on upper limb lymphedema after surgery for breast cancer.” Ceska Gynekol. 2022;87(5):317–323 [Link] [4] Lopez G, Eng C, Overman M, Ramirez D, Liu W, Beinhorn C, Sumler P, Prinsloo S, Li Y, Eduardo B, and Lorenzo C. “A randomized pilot study of oncology massage to treat chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.” Sci Rep 2022; 12: 19023 [Link]

Massage’s Mental Wellness Effects

Unveiling Massage Therapy’s Support for Mental Health

  1. Navigating Mental Health Challenges

  2. Stress and Anxiety Relief: Insights from Studies

  3. Massage Therapy’s Impact on Chronic Pain and Depression

  4. Enhancing Prenatal Mental Health Through Massage

  5. Youth Mental Health and the Role of Massage

  6. The Growing Relevance of Massage in Mental Health Care

Navigating Mental Health Challenges

In an era marked by anxiety ranking as the foremost mental illness and depression as a leading cause of disability, individuals grappling with mental health issues explore diverse wellness avenues, including massage therapy, renowned for its positive effects on mental well-being.

Stress and Anxiety Relief: Insights from Studies

Recent German research underscores massage therapy’s ability to significantly alleviate stress on psychological and physiological levels by enhancing the body’s primary relaxation engine, the parasympathetic nervous system. Findings reveal even a brief 10-minute massage elevates heart rate variability, a signifier of relaxation.

Massage Therapy’s Impact on Chronic Pain and Depression

Studies showcase how massage contributes to mood enhancement and decreases depression among individuals experiencing chronic pain. Trials on women with chronic back pain display reduced depressive symptoms post-receiving specialized massage strokes.

Enhancing Prenatal Mental Health Through Massage

An Australian pilot study examines partner-delivered relaxation massage, reporting substantial reductions in prenatal anxiety and depression symptoms. Pregnant women receiving massage therapy reported significant benefits, emphasizing its positive influence on mental well-being.

Youth Mental Health and the Role of Massage

Growing research advocates for massage in addressing a spectrum of psychological issues among youth, including attention disorders, aggression, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies highlight increased dopamine levels and reduced anxiety in young adults undergoing specific massage techniques.

The Growing Relevance of Massage in Mental Health Care

As the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact mental health, with over 42% reporting anxiety or depression symptoms, experts anticipate a prolonged mental health crisis. Integrative health professionals propose massage therapy as a crucial element in alleviating stress, anxiety, and depression, advocating its inclusion in mental health care.

Research Citations:

  1. Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA): Facts & Statistics | ADAA
  2. University of Konstanz: “Ten minutes of massage or rest will help your body fight stress.” [Source]
  3. Zghihong, Bauer, Aaberg, et al.: “Benefits of hand massage on preoperative anxiety.” [Source]
  4. Psycho-Regulatory Massage Therapy on Chronic Pain and Depression – PubMed (NIH)
  5. Hall HL, Munk NK, Carr BH, et al.: “Maternal mental health and partner-delivered massage.” Women Birth. 2021 May;34(3):e237-47.
  6. Tiffany Field: “Pediatric massage therapy research.” Children (Basel) 2019 Jun; 6(6): 78.
  7. Wilczynska, Lysak-Radomska, Podczarska-Glowacka, et al.: “Effectiveness of relaxation in lowering anxiety.” Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2019;32(6):817-824.
  8. Vahration, Blumberg, Terlizzi, Schiller: “Anxiety or Depressive Disorder and Mental Health Care During COVID-19 Pandemic.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:490-494. [CDC Source]

The Role of Massage Therapy in Alleviating Chronic Pain: Recent Research Insights

Shifting Pain Management: Massage Therapy’s Role in Chronic Pain Relief

  1. Rethinking Chronic Pain Management
  2. Evidence: Integrative Therapies
  3. Impact on Mental Health
  4. The Ongoing Research Endeavor
  5. Post-Pandemic Recalibration

Rethinking Chronic Pain Management

The conventional reliance on opioids for chronic pain faces a transformative shift as recent studies illuminate the potential of alternative therapies like massage. Decades of research, championed by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), affirm massage therapy’s promise in alleviating chronic pain and curbing reliance on opioids.

Evidence: Integrative Therapies

Highlighting a Cleveland Clinic study, integrative therapies combining massage with acupuncture and cognitive therapy yield remarkable outcomes for chronic, non-cancer pain patients. Simultaneously, research from Stollery Children’s Hospital underscores the positive impact of hand self-shiatsu massage on improving sleep quality among youth coping with chronic pain.

Impact on Mental Health

Ongoing investigations, including research examining myofascial massage effects post-surgery for breast cancer patients, signal the profession’s commitment to diversifying massage therapy applications.

The Ongoing Research Endeavor

AMTA President Michaele Colizza advocates integrating massage therapy into comprehensive pain relief discussions between patients and healthcare providers.

Post-Pandemic Recalibration

The pandemic’s disruption of chronic pain services exacerbated the pain crisis in the US. Healthcare systems adapt post-pandemic, elevating non-opioid pain therapies like massage, evident in the AMTA’s 2022 Massage Profession Research Report.

These insights underscore the urgency for a paradigm shift in pain management strategies, urging exploration of non-pharmacological solutions such as massage therapy.


  • Znidarsic et al. (2021), “Living Well with Chronic Pain”: Integrative Pain Management via Shared Medical Appointments.
  • Brown et al. (2020), Effectiveness of Hand Self-Shiatsu to Promote Sleep in Young People with Chronic Pain.
  • Sehgal et al. (2020-2024), Pain and Immobility After Breast Cancer Surgery: A Community-Based Randomized Controlled Trial of Myofascial Massage Treatment.
  • AMTA 2022 Massage Profession Research Report, based on data from the annual AMTA Consumer Survey.
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