This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month! Have you checked yours recently? In aim to highlight the support that’s out there for all cancer sufferers, I would like to talk to you about two alternative therapies: Massage and Reiki and their impact on cancer.
Over the years numerous studies have shown that massage can be beneficial for those with cancer. There are many different types of massage some are quite light, like lymph drainage and some much firmer, such as deep tissue.
For some the touch and contact of another person can be deeply therapeutic and therefore it can help with some of the emotional affects of cancer including anxiety and depression. As previously mentioned in our Blog about Heart Health; massage lowers the bodies levels of cortisol this change calms the body and the mind which in turn increases relaxation. And allows the body to heal more effectively.
Massage also helps relieve some pain as it stimulates the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins serotonins and dopamines, which will allow a person to use fewer chemicals as pain control during this period. Read on for more specific detail into how these therapies work…
Lymphatic drainage massage is very helpful for those who are struggling with swelling or fighting a high level of toxicity. Manual lymphatic drainage helps to move excess fluid away from swollen areas through the lymph system to be flushed away and then removed from the body. As well as decreasing uncomfortable swelling, it can also improve the immune system by clearing toxins; this plays a large part in the immune system so if it is not working properly or is over loaded it will affect your body’s ability to remove waste product and focus on healing.
It is only in recent years that people have looked to alternative or complimentary therapies to fight various forms of cancer. These include Reflexology, aromatherapy and Reiki, all of which have been recognised by the NHS and have been incorporated into several hospitals across the UK.
These holistic treatments are not only relaxing but have been effective in helping to bring down the blood count when use alongside traditional medicine. It is very common for recovered patients to continue with these therapies to care for their body’s and aim to prevent the cancer returning.
Reiki has been used for centuries to help people’s body’s heal. It is thought that Reiki balances the energies of the chakras and when enhanced with aromatherapy and/or meditation can be amazingly effective at removing stress, physically and emotionally. When we are relaxed, our body turns its focus to healing, allowing for growth and repair. Reiki is ‘hands off’ Therapy which is why it’s often advised in delicate cases as Reiki does not affect the body’s natural processes.
Aromatherapy can also have a profound effect on our feelings and emotions. During times of ill health our levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are high which will weaken our immune system as attention is turned away from preservation and more to fight or flight, which sounds like a good motto for cancer! Yet it puts our bodily systems under huge amounts of stress; this effect inhibits our immune system because if you are running away from danger , the last thing you need is to be stuck down by illness! But when you are battling long term illness this often useful effect is certainly not helpful. Essential oils such as Chamomile and Lavender will help to calm and relax you whilst Frankincense and jasmine can help you deal with the sadness and bring clarity. Other oils such as Bergamot will help uplift and distress. You can have an Aromatherapy Massage in Southampton or you can order and utilise the healing powers at home or in hospital. By reducing the levels of stress hormones in your body you can improve your immune system and help fight your illness better, Aromatherapy Massage can also aid the production of ‘happy hormones’ as mentioned above, which alleviate pain and bleak feelings.
There is a myth that massage should not be done on cancer patients because you could spread the cancer. This is not true, there is no evidence that cancer can be spread through the lymphatic system via massage. Your lymph system is constantly working anyway, massage just speeds it up slightly so if cancer cells are moving around your lymph system they will move regardless of whether you have massage or not; and your Lymph system is also part of your immune system and it is where your body destroys cancer cells.
Having said this there are some precautions to having massage with cancer. We would never massage over the site of a tumour and we also need to be careful if any lymph nodes have been damaged or removed as part of your treatment, which can commonly be the case with breast cancer. Removing lymph nodes increases your risk of lymphoedema, a condition that causes a build up of fluid in an area where the lymph system is not working fully. This can be very uncomfortable and needs to be treated by a therapist qualified to treat the condition, such as Amy and I at YOU Massage Therapy.
As we have mentioned earlier massage can speed up the lymph system so it is unadvisable to massage an area where lymph nodes have be removed. For example if you have had lymph nodes removed from under your right arm, you are more at risk of developing lymphodema in that arm so it may be a good idea to avoid it in the first instance.
Massage is a wonderful treatment for anyone to have, but in times of illness, stress and worry it is even more beneficial. If you or someone you know is battling breast cancer, consider contacting us to see how we can help and see how these treatments work. We all need to be aware of how to keep an eye on our breasts and support those who are diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve found breast cancer care to be a really useful site, there are forums where you can discuss just about anything, from complementary therapies and lymphoedema to moving forward, positive news and stories.
Thanks for reading, I hope this has encouraged you to check your breasts. Not sure how? Click the link for NHS information.
Naomi, Senior, YOU Massage Therapy