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Massage Therapy Has Grown in National Cancer Institute-Designated Health Systems

A cancer patient might face such medical procedures as surgery, medication and chemotherapy, as well as ongoing treatment post-recovery.

Increasingly, therapies such as massage are used to mitigate pain and anxiety.

A new analysis of U.S. cancer centers’ websites indicates massage, along with acupuncture, consultations about nutrition and dietary supplements are the integrative therapies most commonly offered in National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated health systems. ...

MASSAGE Magazine spoke with a leading oncology massage educator to help determine the reasons behind this growth.

Johnnette du Rand Kelly is a massage therapist who practices oncology massage. She is also founding director of Greet The Day, an organization that provides therapies for cancer patients.

MM: The authors of the analysis mentioned that conventional cancer treatments can produce challenging effects like hot flashes, nausea and fatigue. How does massage therapy benefit cancer patients?

JK: Research shows that massage reduces pain and anxiety.

When a cancer patient or family member asks me about the benefits of massage, I often like to also add that it is touch that feels good at a time when touch often does not, and that massage is a reminder for the patient that they can feel better, possibly even good, at a time when their body hurts.

Being able to meet the basic human need of safe and comforting touch is in and of itself therapeutic.

MM: In your experience, what has the response been by cancer patients to massage therapy? Are they aware of it, do they feel better after receiving it, do they request it?

JK: In both in- and out-patient settings, patients’ response to massage is, unsurprisingly, very welcoming and overwhelmingly receptive.

In the two academic cancer centers that Greet The Day works in, the patients who are aware of massage as an available service regularly request it. For others, it’s a pleasant surprise to be offered massage as a part of their care. 

If you think getting a massage is an overindulgent luxury, think again    by Cathrine Weaver

Massage is often seen as a luxury that helps with relaxation. The American Massage Therapy Association reports that 28 percent of people who get a massage state it is to reduce stress and relax. However, massage is also a beneficial, non-invasive way to help improve your health.

Seeing a licensed massage therapist to reduce stress can provide the health benefits of reducing blood pressure, improving quality of sleep and help you cope better with everyday life demands, but massage can do so much more.

Research conducted between 2008 and 2012 by the National Center for Complementary Integrative Health showed that massage can help with chronic back or neck pain, and pain associated with arthritis.

Massage also can relieve discomfort from sore muscles, help with range of motion, promote healing by increasing circulation to areas related to injury, reduce episodes of headaches, boost your immune system, and even help with problems related to carpal tunnel syndrome.

For those effects to be beneficial, visits to your massage therapist should be done regularly.

Health maintenance of any type, whether good eating habits, exercise, health checkups or stress management, create positive effects when done as a regular habit. This is also true of massage. Getting a massage once in a while to treat yourself is a temporary moment of relaxation, but regular massage creates a cumulative effect for your body and your mind.

Sitting at a computer every day for hours can create constant tightness in shoulder and neck muscles. As a result, you may find it difficult to turn your head, or you may experience frequent tension headaches. Regular massage can help counteract those effects by gently, gradually loosening the tension. The long-term effect is fewer headaches, more relaxed posture and probably better concentration.  ...  

Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Mental Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Always appropriate ~ Always appreciated 

A massage gift certificate makes

the ideal gift for any occasion! 


By Joe Neely


Today’s medical researchers have found massage therapy can provide benefits to those who experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Here are some conditions massage therapy can have an effect on:


• Depression and Anxiety— Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health issues, and both can negatively impact lives. Studies have shown massage therapy can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Researchers at Taiwan’s E-Da Hospital and College of Medicine reviewed 17 scientific studies involving 786 people. The findings showed massage had many positive benefits for people experiencing depression and led to a reduction in symptoms. At Japan’s Kyushu University, a team of experts found facial massage soothed participants’ physiological distress. They concluded that massage activated participants’ sympathetic nervous system, reducing their anxiety and improving their mood.


• Neurotransmitter and Hormone Balance—  Researchers have shown massage therapy activates neurotransmitters that can decrease anxiety and lower stress hormone levels. At the University of Miami School of Medicine, researchers found massage therapy had positive effects on people who were experiencing a range of mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders, and stress. The research team found about a 30% increase in serotonin and dopamine levels in the study participants who underwent massage, as well as a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. These findings suggest massage was responsible for an increase in feel-good neurotransmitters and a decrease in stress.


• Blood Pressure and Circulatory Issues— A massage therapist can help lower your heart rate as well as your systolic (pumping) and diastolic (resting) high blood pressure.


At Iran’s Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, a researcher compared two groups of 25 women. One group received 10-15 minutes of Swedish massage three times a week for a total of 10 sessions; the women in the other group relaxed in the same environment, but did not receive massages. The researchers found massage caused a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure that persisted for as many as three days after treatment.


A researcher at the University of South Florida studied the effects of back massage on hypertension (high blood pressure) and found blood pressure reductions in study participants who received massage. Those reductions lasted for two days after treatment. ...


• Alleviating Symptoms of Illness or Disease— People with life-threatening illnesses or diseases often experience anxiety and depression that can exacerbate their condition. Massage therapy can greatly increase quality of life, freeing up mental and physiological resources to fight off disease. Many physicians recommend massage as a complementary therapy to medical care for its healing power and low incidence of side effects.


At the Columbia University Medical Center, experts studied children with cancer and found massage therapy helped manage many side effects of cancer treatment, including pain, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and reduced immune function.


A University of Miami research team found study participants with AIDS had less anxiety, stress, anger, and overall mood issues after receiving massage therapy and learning home care relaxation techniques. The people who were treated by massage therapists had lower norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter linked to depression) levels as compared to a control group.


• Veterans’ Mental Health— Researchers recently published a paper in the journal Military Medicine describing the reintegration process for National Guard members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The researchers followed service members and their partners for eight weeks as part of a pilot program to develop treatments for returning veterans. They found massage therapy helped veterans relieve pain, irritability, tension, worry, anxiety, and depression. ...


• Work-Related Stress in Health Care Professionals— Mayo Clinic researchers recently studied 38 nurses who received massages once a week for 10 weeks during work hours. The health care professionals who received massage therapy experienced a reduction in many stress-related symptoms, including joint and muscle pain, shoulder tension, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.


No matter your line of work, regular massage therapy can increase your health, well-being, and stamina. Not only can a massage break feel good and improve morale, research shows it can also improve workplace efficiency. 


Consumer Views & Use of Massage Therapy

Consumer Views & Use of Massage Therapy

• 78 percent of individuals surveyed claim their primary reason for receiving a massage in the previous 12 months was medical (50 percent) or stress (28 percent) related, according to the 20th annual consumer survey sponsored by the American Massage Therapy Association.


Medical reasons include pain relief, soreness, stiffness or spasms, injury recovery, migraines, prevention, pregnancy or pre-natal, and general well-being.


• 88 percent of individuals view massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness.

• 89 percent of consumers surveyed believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain; with 28 percent of respondents stating they have used massage therapy for pain relief.

• 71 percent of consumers agree that massage therapy should be considered a form of healthcare.

• 50 percent of people have received a massage for one or more of the following reasons: soreness, stiffness or spasms, to relieve or manage stress, for prevention or to improve quality of life, injury recovery or rehabilitation, to keep fit or healthy/maintain wellness, pregnancy/prenatal, or to control headaches or migraines.                                


Legit, Science-Backed Ways a Sports Massage Can Improve Your Workout By Sara Angle

Legit, Science-Backed Ways a Sports Massage Can Improve Your Workout By Sara Angle

What therapists are after is creating myofascial release to help you move better—myo refers to muscles and fascial refers to the continuous elastic sheet of connective tissue, or fascia, that covers them.


"Think of fascia like a piece of shrink wrap surrounding your muscles and providing structural support," says Nina Cherie Franklin, Ph.D., an exercise scientist and a licensed massage therapist in Atlanta. But things like sitting all day, repetitive motions, and even stress can cause it to get tight. "Loosening the fascia lets the therapist help the muscle return to its normal resting length and open the muscle for movement," says Mary E. Cody, a master licensed massage therapist at Grae Therapy in New York City.


All that might sound a little intense, but the science behind massage can translate to serious gains in your workouts. Here, four reasons you should consider it. 


Boost Your Circulation— Oxygenated blood is your muscles' power supply, and new research suggests that massage can help those fuel lines work better. In a study at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a single 30-minute lower-body massage performed after a leg workout enhanced blood vessel dilation in exercisers for 48 hours. "Blood vessels that function properly are flexible and have the ability to dilate, or widen, on demand when muscle and other tissues are in need of more oxygen and nutrient-rich blood during and after exercise," says Franklin, the primary study author. Her findings suggest massage may stimulate those vessels to be at the top of their game so your muscles get max juice just when they need it.

Feel Less Sore— Not only do post-workout massages pump blood more efficiently, but people who received them reported nearly half the soreness level compared with those who didn't get a rubdown, Franklin's research found. After a tough workout, there's an inflammatory response in the muscles you just used—your body speeds blood to patch microtears in those muscle fibers—accompanied by oxidative stress. Too much stress, and your muscles can't fire as fast, as long, or as forcefully the next day or two. But massage may dampen the stress effect by lessening the severity of the inflammatory response, she says, ultimately reducing the delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) you typically feel.


Rev Up Your Endurance— There's evidence that massage may even spark your muscle cells to go into overdrive: Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario saw an uptick in the signaling for mitochondria—the powerhouse of your cells—after just one massage. How? "When the proteins involved in sensing the intercellular environment of muscles are altered—most likely from the pressure of a massage—this actually alters your gene expression, temporarily increasing the signal for new mitochondrial growth," says study author Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D. That's key, since mitochondria help turn fuel into energy, and the more you have, the greater your endurance capacity. Getting regular massages could potentially change the capacity of your muscles, says Dr. Tarnopolsky.


Move More Freely— Anyone who's experienced tight hamstrings knows that some exercises can be difficult when your movement is restricted. That's a sign that the fascia sheath is not allowing for a full range of motion in the hamstring, says Cody. By releasing the tight or restricted areas, she says, you'll improve your flexibility and mobility. That, in turn, might allow you to run with less effort, lift weights with more control, or just exercise a little longer.