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The Value of Medical Massage

The Value of Medical Massage

Special to the Journal By Rachel Hogancamp, LMT


Many people think of massage only when they are stiff and sore or when they are healing from an injury. However, massage is now recognized as an effective complementary therapy in the treatment of chronic conditions ranging from cancer to insomnia.


Studies show that when patients with chronic illness commit to regular massage therapy as part of their health-care routine, they see a true benefit. While massage doesn’t cure cancer, it can make cancer treatment much more tolerable.


What is medical massage?


Medical message is a modality that is designed to address specific painful, emotionally stressful conditions. These may be systemic illnesses, such as cancer, or musculoskeletal conditions like fibromyalgia.


There are several ways in which medical massage can benefit people who are living with chronic conditions. Medical massage provides pain relief by inducing tight muscles to relax and improving circulation. It diminishes emotional stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Massage also helps people remember that physical attention to their body does not always have to involve poking, prodding, and needles. The trained, caring touch and undivided attention of a good massage therapist can make a significant difference in the way a chronically ill person feels and in the way they respond to other medical therapies.


Is medical massage safe if I have cancer?


Many cancer-treatment plans incorporate massage; however, it is wise to see a massage therapist who has studied this specialty. Because cancer is common in this region, we have a therapist at Rasa Spa who studied oncology massage at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. When working with a cancer patient, the massage therapist will talk with the patient and his or her physician about the effects of the chemotherapy or radiation. This helps to ensure that massage supports the other treatment modalities.


What other chronic conditions can be helped with regular massage?

  • Patients with fibromyalgia often find that massage helps to quiet the nervous system, while calming and loosening the connective tissues that are inflamed.


  • People suffering with sleep disorders and emotional issues like depression find that massage comforts them and helps them relax. People with insomnia are often relaxed to sleep by massage.


  • Massage can be helpful in relieving migraines and chronic headaches by working on specific trigger points in the patient’s neck, face, and head.


  • One of the components of high blood pressure is often stress; massage can help to draw blood pressure down at least temporarily.


What about soft tissue injuries?


Medical massage can be very helpful to people with muscle sprains and strains, shin splints, whiplash, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, and frozen shoulder. Massage increases circulation, loosens the fascia, relaxes muscles, and increases range of motion.


How does massage impact the mind/body connection?


Massage promotes the body’s relaxation response, reduces anxiety, and gives people a sense of well-being. Studies have been done on surgical patients to determine the impact of having massage before going into surgery, and again after surgery. The results indicate that recovery is faster in people who have had pre- and post-operative massage. The data suggest that this occurs because these patients went into their surgery in a more positive state of mind.


Human touch can have a profoundly soothing effect, both physically and psychologically. Therapeutic bodywork takes many different forms, is easily tailored to a client’s individual needs, and is helpful to people of all ages.


Rachel Hogancamp, LMT, is a licensed massage therapist. She is the spa director at Rasa Spa, 607-273-1740, and co-owner with Cayuga Medical Center and Island Health and Fitness. She is also an instructor at the Finger Lakes School of Massage.

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