Stress Lessens Survival Rates in Cancer Patients, Can Massage Therapy Help?
Research indicates that massage therapy reduces stress and depression in the general population, and massage has also been studied in relation to its ability to alleviate pain, anxiety, depression and stress in cancer patients specifically. Massage therapy has also been found to improve mood in advanced cancer patients.
New research shows stress and depression are associated with shorter survival times in head-and-neck cancer patients.
“Studies have shown that stress can affect the immune system and weaken the body’s defense against infection and disease,” noted a press release from Fox Chase Cancer Center. “In cancer patients this stress can also affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread.”
Among patients with advanced cancer, 30 minutes of massage therapy resulted in immediate benefits to both pain and mood, according to recent research.
“Massage Therapy versus Simple Touch to Improve Pain and Mood in Patients with Advanced Cancer” involved 348 people suffering from stage III or IV cancer and moderate to severe pain. Ninety percent of the participants were enrolled in hospice.
Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 30 minutes of massage therapy or 30 minutes of simple touch. Each cancer patient received six sessions of his or her assigned intervention throughout a two-week period, with at least 24 hours between sessions.
The massage therapy involved 30 minutes of gentle, smooth and gliding strokes (effleurage); squeezing, rolling and kneading of the muscles (petrissage); and trigger-point release, using finger pressure at tender areas to soothe recurring spasms and pain. The simple touch consisted of placing both hands on various parts of the subject’s body for three minutes at a time over a total of 30 minutes. Those who provided the simple touch were not trained in energy work or massage therapy; rather, they were instructed to use light and consistent pressure with no side-to-side hand movement.
Researchers evaluated both the immediate and the long-term effects of both types of touch. Immediate effects were measured just before and after each intervention. Sustained effects were measured at the start of the study and every week for three weeks.