The word “massage” derives from a French term which translates as “friction of kneading.” A massage therapist is trained in techniques of manipulation of the patient’s musculature, tendons, ligaments, skin, joints and even lymphatic vessels and organs of the gastro-intestinal system, such as the intestines. There are more than 80 different methods used by massage therapists, who may apply these methods with the hands and fingers, elbows, forearms, and even the feet—or some combination thereof.
Massage therapy can be useful in dealing with many of the symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers, or even all cancers in general; medical research has demonstrated that massage patients benefit from reductions in anxiety and depression as well as blood pressure, heart rate and respiration.
History of Massage in the U.S.
The art and science of massage has been practiced for centuries throughout the world. Massage in the U.S. became popular in the mid-19th Century with the introduction of methods developed by a Swedish physician named Per Henrik Ling, who in turn had been influenced by Chinese practices.
The benefits of massage in the U.S. were embraced by professional athletes as well as nurses during the 1960s and 70s; nurses used massage techniques at that time in order to ease patients’ pain and discomfort.
Today, medical researchers believe that massage helps to block pain receptors in the brain while activating the parasympathetic nervous system (that part of the human nervous system that slows signals) and stimulate the release of endorphins (a natural narcotic or opiate produced by the brain which acts as a natural analgesic).
Massage and Cancer Patients
Whether it is mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer or some other malignancy, most cancer patients suffer not only from the pain of the disease itself, but more often from the side effects and discomfort brought on by chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Several studies have been conducted over the past seven years that demonstrated the palliative effects of massage therapy on cancer patients in helping them to deal with the abovementioned symptoms.
Massage therapy has been shown to be highly effective in reducing anxiety and treatment-related nausea, as well as fatigue. Levels of pain and anxiety were substantially lower among patients who underwent massage therapy, regardless of age, stage of the disease or setting (Cassileth-Deng, 2004). In addition, massage is known to increase blood flow and relieve overall physical stress levels.
One of the serious problems that those who suffer from malignant mesothelioma, and particularly pleural mesothelioma, must deal with is fluid buildup around the lungs. This occurs because the lymphatic system, which normally drains this fluid, becomes blocked. While it is not known whether massage therapy is effective in dealing with fluid buildup, the fact is that such therapy has been known to facilitate the function of the lymph nodes and ducts.
Is Massage Therapy Right For Everyone?
Generally speaking, almost everyone – including cancer patients – can benefit from massage therapy. However, those who are suffering from a fever, deep vein thrombosis, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, have damaged blood vessels or bones that have been weakened due to a spread of the cancer, osteoporosis or a recent fracture should avoid massage therapy due to the risk of injury