Scientific research continues to demonstrate that therapeutic massage can help promote health and well-being. However, researchers are also finding that therapeutic massage can help with symptom management for people who are experiencing ongoing medical challenges.
Massage therapy is used to help manage a health condition or enhance wellness. It involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body. Massage has been practiced in most cultures, both Eastern and Western, throughout human history, and was one of the earliest tools that people used to try to relieve pain. A lot of the scientific research on massage therapy is preliminary or conflicting, but much of the evidence points toward beneficial effect on pain and other symptoms associated with a number of different conditions. Evidence suggests that massage therapy may be useful for some pain conditions such as low-back pain and chronic neck pain. Research has suggested that at least for the short-term, massage therapy for cancer patients may reduce pain. A recent review of scientific literature concluded that massage therapy may help to reduce depression. Massage therapy appears to have few risks when performed by a trained practitioner.
Here are several chronic medical conditions along with links to research studies exploring the effectiveness of therapeutic massage in assisting with symptom management.
Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) use massage for prevention or relief of the following symptoms:
Spasticity -- Massage can help relax muscles and enhance range of motion exercises.
Pain -- Massage is useful in any condition in which a reduction in swelling of mobilization of tissues leads to pain relief. It can provide pleasurable stimulation, giving the person with MS a chance to relax, and relieving anxiety and fear. If massage is used as an aid for controlling pain, it should be used under the advice of a physician.
Poor circulation -- Massage can increase blood flow through superficial veins by use of friction, and through deeper arteries and veins by use of petrissage (massaging of skin that is gently lifted and squeezed). Massage can also increase capillary dilation through light stroking.
Pressure sores -- Massage may be useful in preventing the development of pressure sores but should not be used if pressure sores or reddened areas of inflammation are present.
Clinical trials have shown that massage therapy helps reduce pain, anxiety, fatigue, and shortness of breath in cancer patients. It can ease the mind, improve sleep, reduce depression, and provide comfort to patients. It may also help children and caregivers. In addition, studies suggest that massage can reduce pain and anxiety related to medical procedures, including surgery.
According to the American Cancer Society, several studies of massage specifically designed for cancer patients suggest that it can significantly decrease common symptoms of cancer and its treatment, including pain, stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
A medical challenge for one person may bring physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges for that person's caregivers and family members. The relaxation and rejuvenation provided by therapeutic massage can help restore a more positive outlook.
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