WHAT IS MASSAGE?

Manual massage therapy involves applying different techniques such as gliding, kneading, friction or mobilisation to the soft tissues. It does not use mechanical devices and is reported to offer therapeutic effects such as supporting the function of the lymphatic system and increasing blood flow as well as skin temperature.

Our Purpose

Our purpose is to be a global facilitator of health and wellness through access, education and advancement of Traditional & Complementary Medicine (T&CM). The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that lifestyle-related diseases (or non-communicable diseases) are responsible for more than 70% of deaths worldwide each year.

Knowledge represents empowerment. By sharing this evidence-based, peer-reviewed research, we aim to support everyday people to take ownership of their wellness, by making informed decisions and choices in conjunction with their health professional.

How This Study Could Help Support Your Recovery from Cancer

On the list of the world’s biggest killers, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease, and was estimated by the WHO to be the cause of one in six deaths worldwide in 2018. This study evaluates the effectiveness of massage therapy for treating a debilitating consequence of cancer, and is titled:

MASSAGE THERAPY DECREASES CANCER-RELATED FATIGUE: RESULTS FROM A RANDOMIZED EARLY PHASE TRIAL.

You can read the full study here: bit.ly/2XQ4Bdr

Why Is This Study Important?

For many people diagnosed with cancer, surviving the disease itself is not the end of their wellness battle. Some suffer from physical disability or impairment as a result of surgery, while persistent psychological effects including anxiety and depression are also frequently encountered.

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a debilitating condition agreed to be the most common side effect of treatment. It is described as a distressing sense of “physical, emotional, and/or cognitive exhaustion” that cannot be attributed to normal causes. Research quoted in this study suggests it is “more troublesome and has a greater negative impact on quality of life than cancer-related pain, depression, or nausea”. However, there are not many treatment options available for cancer- related fatigue.

Previous research indicates that mild exercise may bring some relief, and evidence suggests there is only one pharmaceutical medication that leads to “a significant, albeit small, improvement”. This is why finding evidence for any treatment that may significantly reduce CRF could have a meaningful impact on quality of life for people recovering from cancer.

What Does This Mean For My Wellness?

Evaluating quality of life was not a primary goal of this research, and only assessed in relation to fatigue scores. However, the decrease in quality of life noted by the participants who received no treatment does serve to illustrate the continuing challenges to wellness faced by people recovering from cancer. This finding also implies that as a result, without some form of treatment, quality of life may continue to decline..

While this trial was focused on the recovery phase, more than half of the participants were still receiving ongoing chemoprevention to reduce their risk of cancer recurrence. This is an example of the long-term consequences faced by cancer survivors, and highlights the importance of finding evidence-based treatments for such problems.

Conventional therapies for cancer may be effective in treating the disease, but do not alleviate conditions such as fatigue, which may last for years after remission according to the authors of this study. Research suggests many cancer survivors choose T&CM therapies due to their perceived benefits in relieving symptoms for which conventional medicine does not offer a straightforward cure.

Limitations of this trial include the small sample size and the fact all participants were women, meaning that it is uncertain how much the results can be generalised. However, the meticulous study design supports confidence in the findings that it was most likely the massage therapy that made the difference to the participants’ fatigue symptoms. 

How Does This Relate to Massage Therapy?

Massage is a familiar manual treatment practised all over the world, believed to date back to at least 2500BCE. Some types of massage are mainly for pleasure or relaxation, while other styles are intended to have therapeutic effects on the physical body.

Although the exact percentage varies among different populations, in Australia, it is estimated that up to two-thirds of cancer patients utilise “at least one form of complementary therapy during or after their cancer treatment.” Massage is one of the modalities chosen most often to treat side effects of conventional cancer therapy, as well as to support recovery from cancer.

In 2017, researchers affiliated with Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, U.S., published the results of a randomised controlled pilot trial exploring the effectiveness of massage therapy for reducing cancer-related fatigue. No previously published trials had been specifically designed to examine the effectiveness of this therapy for CRF.

The study participants were randomly assigned to three groups: one group received Swedish massage therapy on a weekly basis for six weeks, while the other two were control groups.

Participants in the active control group received a so-called ‘light touch’ treatment, while patients in the remaining group received no treatment at all. The ‘light touch’ treatment involved the massage therapist applying their hands gently in the same sequence as for the massage group, but without actually kneading, rubbing or stroking the participant’s body.

Key Findings About Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage for Breast Cancer Patients

  • The findings suggest massage therapy was associated with a clinically significant reduction in cancer-related fatigue. Participants receiving massage therapy reported greater benefits to their fatigue symptoms than those in the ‘light touch’ control group.
  • It was found that participants in the ‘light touch’ group also experienced a small improvement in their fatigue symptoms. However, no clinically significant improvement was reported by the participants who did not receive any treatment.
  • It was found that the quality of life reported by the massage group increased substantially over the six weeks of the treatment, and improved slightly for the light touch group. By comparison, a decrease in quality of life was observed in the group that received no treatment.
Disclaimer: The above does not constitute medical advice, and as with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing massage to support cancer treatment.

References
Published since 1948, Cancer is one of the oldest peer-reviewed journals in oncology. As a journal of the American Cancer Society, Cancer provides a forum for the exchange of information among the oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer.

Quoted from journal description
Cancer | World Health Organization
Massage therapy decreases cancer-related fatigue | Cancer
Overcoming Cancer-Related Fatigue | pancare.org.au
Massage | souladvisor.com
The History of Massage Therapy | florida-academy.edu
Understanding Complementary Therapies | Cancer Council Australia
Australian integrative oncology services: a mixed-method study exploring the views of cancer survivors | BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies
About | Cancer