I am proud to be a Preferred Practitioner of Oncology Massage as a member of The Society for Oncology Massage - S4OM
What is Oncology Massage?
An oncology massage is a client-specific, customized massage session designed to meet the unique and changing needs of someone in treatment for cancer or with a history of cancer treatment. A safe massage plan generally revolves around the side effects (both short- and long-term) of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Oncology massage can only be provided by a massage therapist who has received training in the specifics of cancer and cancer treatment. This training is more about cancer and less about massage. When you are receiving an oncology massage, you are receiving traditional, established massage therapy techniques that have been adapted to account for your unique health situation. The changes that might be made to a massage that make it an "oncology massage" can fall under any number of categories, but typically they will be related to session length, pressure, positioning and areas of specific compromise or concern like mediports, bone metastases or skin reactions to treatment.
What can Oncology Massage do for me?
Research has shown that massage therapy performed by trained practitioners can reduce many of the negative symptoms associated with cancer and the various conventional forms of treatment. Patients who receive massage report an improvement in self-image, decrease in pain, improved sleep and positive change in negative side effects of treatment like peripheral neuropathy, and a decrease in overall anxiety and depression.
The Stress/Pain Connection
Stress seems to be almost unavoidable in our busy lives. It's easy for people to suggest that your might feel better if you're less stressed, but if you're already stressed, that's just going to stress you out even more! Adding to the problem, stress can cause a lot of unwanted symptoms in your body, including pain. In some cases, stress causes pain to develop, like headaches. In others, it makes existing pain worse.
Think about it; if you're tensing your body up and putting stress quite literally onto your muscles, you are going to feel the effects of that in a sore back, shoulders and head. If you suffer with chronic pain anyway, stress can exacerbate it.
At one point or another, most of us have to deal with a certain amount of stress. Without it, some of us just wouldn't get anything done! It's when the stress builds up that it can start to cause issues in your body and make you hurt. One study found that 33% of adults said they were dealing with high levels of perceived stress - you're not alone if one of them is you.
Stress affects more than just your mind - if you hold on to too much tension, it will most likely lead to muscle stiffness and pain. Too much stress is also linked to headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, and insomnia; one study of people who suffered with chronic headaches found that 45% said they'd been through a stressful event before they started to get the headaches. Other aches and pains can also be blamed on stress - it's thought that the stress hormone cortisol could be to blame for chronic pain. A study compared 16 people with chronic back pain to a control group and found that the people with chronic pain had higher levels of cortisol.
It pays not to let the stress build up, and one good way to physically disperse stress before it cause too much trouble is a good massage. Massage is the perfect way to relax you and improve your mood. Whatever effect stress has on your body and mood, treating yourself to a massage is one of the most relaxing ways to deal with a build-up of toxic stress or anxiety.
Almost every symptom of stress that's been listed by the American Psychological Association can benefit from massage therapy. Research has even shown that massage therapy can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, (which can be raised when you are stressed) as well as soothing stress-related pain by relaxing your muscles and increasing the production of endorphins, which are your body's natural feel-good chemicals. A massage can also boost your body's production of serotonin and dopamine, giving you a feeling of well-being that releases the stress, calms your mind and gives you the physical and mental break your body needs from all the stressful things that are making you hunch your shoulders.
Next time you feel the stress starting to build up, don't wait till you get the tell-tale tight shoulders, sore neck or headaches. Give me a call and we'll get you the relief you need.
As an Evidence-Based Massage Therapist, I feel it is unethical for LMT's to promote false information to their clients. Here are a few examples I'd like to pass on to you, because "Knowledge is Power"... Especially when making decisions about your own Self-Care.
Massage Myths Debunked
Here are four popular massage myths that have been proven to be wrong over the years, but are still widely accepted. There isn’t a lot of science behind massage, but more researchers are slowly becoming interested. In the last ten years, there has been an increase in massage research, so although we may not fully understand how massage works, we are beginning to understand that many things that we once thought to be true are false. I wanted to share these common myths so that you may be better informed abut what you can expect with therapeutic massage.
Massage Flushes out lactic acid
This is probably one of the most common myths. Let’s start with lactic acid. Lactic acid is not a toxic substance but is a by product that helps an athlete in peak performance. As we perform strenuous exercise, our breathing quickens to provide our muscles with needed oxygen. This oxygen is what helps propel the process that gives our muscles energy. Pyruvate is an important metabolic intermediate in a variety of cellular processes that help create cellular energy. But when oxygen is limited, the body temporarily converts pyruvate into lactate which allows for energy production to continue.
A side effect of high lactate levels is an increase in the acidity of the muscle cells along with disruptions of other metabolites. On the surface, it seems counterproductive that a working muscle would produce something that would slow it’s capacity for more work. In reality, this is a natural defense mechanism for the body; it prevents permanent damage during extreme exertion by slowing the key systems needed to maintain muscle contraction. Once the body slows down and oxygen is available, the body’s systems revert back and allow for the body to recover. Lactic acid is completely flushed from the tissues of the body within hour after the event.
Although it is common to attribute post workout soreness with lactic acid, science now understands that because lactic acid is cleared from the body within a few hours after an event, it has nothing to do with post workout soreness. Rather, post workout soreness can be attributed to responses to extreme exercise resulting in an inflammatory-repair response that occur during the workout.
Massage flushes out toxins and that’s why I feel sore or sick after a massage
Now that’s a vague statement! It sure sounds good, and since we feel so good after a massage it must be because the toxins have been cleared from our body - right? First, let’s define what a toxin is - anything can be toxic in some degree. Even drinking too much water can kill a person. We may even consider cellular waste to be a toxin. Our bodies have the incredible ability to clear out heavy metals, cellular waste, etc. on the own without the help of outside forces. This is a complicated process that consists of the body’s endocrine system, liver, kidneys and blood. Many metabolic wastes have a purpose throughout a cascade of functional interactions. In many cases, you don’t want to “get rid of” them. You want them to go through their normal chemical lifecycle, processed and re-processed to support the body’s complex processes.
Massage has been shown in research to reduce anxiety and depression. So, why would you feel sick after a massage? Actually, feeling ill or sore afterwards is a sign that the massage was too aggressive. Even if you felt okay with it during the session, it was likely too much for your tissues at the time. Post-massage soreness and malaise (PMSM) is a common phenomenon after any strong massage. A strong massage will cause muscle damage which stresses out the system as it heals. So, in a sense, you could say toxic waste is being flushed out of the system- not as a product of the massage, but because of the massage.
When considering modern neuroscience and research it makes more sense to say that we feel good after a massage because the massage helps relax our nervous system, not because of any kind of “toxins” have been flushed out of the body.
Massage & body wraps can rid the body of cellulite
If this were true, I would be a millionaire! Cellulite is the adipose or fat tissue that builds up under the skin creating a dimpled appearance. The main causes of cellulite are genetics, hormones, diet and lifestyle. Massage and body wraps can give the appearance of smoother skin, but that is short lived. If you notice advertisements for body wraps or any sort of special massage to rid the body of cellulite, there will be a disclaimer telling you that the product or therapy works best with a good diet and exercise because body wraps can’t rid the body of cellulite in the long term. There isn’t any research that shows either massage or body wraps can actually remove cellulite.
In order to be effective, massage must be painful
Here is another common myth that I hear from many of my clients. Often, pain and/or tension can feel like it’s deep within the body and the only way to work it out is by digging in as hard as possible. When we feel pain or discomfort from the massage, it can help us feel like something is being done. Unfortunately, in the long term, all that digging in will just create more pain and aggravate the initial problem.
Often clients will tell me that “you can dig in as hard as you want, I can take it”. When I ask them about their previous experience with massage, I usually learn that their previous massage therapist would use elbows or get on the table to give a deep massage to the area of pain. They then go on to tell me how they became bruised and sore for several days after.
The interesting thing is that the client will put up with this for months or years and when they come into my office, they still have the pain! So you see, that deep painful massage may feel good at the time and your tissues may be numb for a few days, but that pain or tension eventually returns.
More invalid claims about massage
Even more outlandishly, here are a list of diseases & conditions that some massage therapists claim can be treated/cured by massage- bursitis, cerebral palsy, contusions, diabetes, dislocations, emphysema, gout, mesothelioma, osteoporosis, respiratory problems (such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema) and a host of many others.
I am not writing that massage can’t be given to people with these conditions, but that massage can’t be used to treat these cases. The good thing is that with conditions such as these, massage can help alleviate the stress that occurs when dealing with these types of health problems. Reducing stress has been shown to reduce the brain’s perception of pain.
Well, then what does massage actually do?
There are numerous studies that show massage does reduce anxiety, ease depression, improve body awareness and reduce the brain’s perception of pain. Considering the role of stress and anxiety in a number of health and pain conditions, massage may have more of an effect in helping the brain and nervous system to heal the body, rather than having a direct affect on the muscles, fascia and joints.
*This information was gathered by other therapists heavily involved in the research of massage therapy.
Mindfulness and attention to detail are brought into each and every massage. My work is grounded in evidence-based massage. I am always learning and reading about pain science and the nervous system and how it regulates pain and stress in our bodies. I enjoy passing on information to my clients, as “knowledge is power”, and when we come from a place of taking back the control over our own bodies, it is then that we can learn to settle down our nervous systems, start listening to our bodies and begin to heal.
Massage Should Not Hurt! Every day clients come to me telling of past massages that left them sore and sometimes bruised. I just want to give them a hug and apologize for their bad experience. You did not come for your massage to leave feeling more sore than when you got here. The “No pain, no gain” myth has got to go away. That’s simply not the way the nervous system works. My style of massage is what some may call “Old School”. I believe in the power of touch, with my hands. No “tools” for this girl! I do not incorporate cupping, scraping or any other new “fad” of the day. (Although I do use warm stones and plenty of deliciously weighted heated wraps, towels and pillows!)
The question of how much pressure to use is really dependent on each person’s sensitivity level and how they are feeling on that day. Generally, I give a firm, slow, fluid pressure. I have been told by my clients “You always know where to give deeper pressure and lighter pressure from beginning to end”. I like that comment, as there’s nothing worse than a massage that is too light and feathery (also read as, irritating), or a massage that is so deep it causes your muscles to tighten up even more than when you first lied down. Communication is key during your massage. I always tell my clients to not be shy about letting me know if the pressure is too much or even if it isn't enough. And, if I’m on an area that feels really good, to let me know and I’ll hang out there a little longer.
If there’s anything at all that you’d like to know about me, please reach out! I absolutely LOVE what I do and helping my clients to reach and maintain their wellness goals!
Routine Car maintenance? How about Routine Body/Mind Maintenance?
We automatically schedule routine car maintenance for our cars, but all too often we don't give our bodies the same consideration. Fail to get your oil changed or your tires rotated, and you can count on some major problems down the road. Similarly, when you fail to pay attention to your body and provide it with the care it deserves, you may very well run into health issues that could have been prevented. Just because you may not currently have an injury or an urgent reason to receive bodywork doesn't mean you shouldn't schedule regular sessions to prevent those problems down the line. In addition, studies have shown that the most significant, lasting benefits of massage are found with repeated sessions, not just a one-time visit.
Simply put, massage should be an integral part of any well-rounded lifestyle that embraces health and wellness. Even if you only look at the massage hour as an opportunity to unplug from the noise and stress of everyday life, there are even more benefits. Massage has been proven to reduce stress, and reducing stress has been clearly associated with a number of significant health benefits, including pain relief. Massage does not simply promote relaxation (although it does that ten-fold) - it improves flexibility, reduces blood pressure, improves sleep and may even facilitate a change in one's sense of self by encouraging body awareness and enhancing your ability to experience your body in a more positive way.
It's time to make time for you! If you're relatively healthy and injury-free, that's awesome! Now take steps to ensure you stay that way for years to come and schedule your next sessions today.
Hello from my "Zen Den"
What is it like to receive a massage from Kathy? When you arrive, you are welcomed into a warm, safe space. Before your massage begins, on your first visit, you will fill out a short medical intake form and share with me what your needs are at the moment, and what your goals are for the session (whether it be deep relaxation, pain relief or a mix of both).
The treatment room is bathed in warm, soft light. You can choose any genre of music you prefer to listen to, with words or just instrumentals. Organic massage cream is used. It contains jojoba, shea butter and other botanicals, which are hypo-allergenic, unscented and help nourish your skin, without feeling greasy when you leave. You also may choose to incorporate Essential Oils into your massage for the added benefit of enhancing your senses of relaxation and calm.
Your massage table is covered with several layers of fleece, padding and warm heat. You will be comforted with warmed towels and flaxseed pillows (which are handmade by me ;) ). Any heat, of course, is optional at your request.
I respect your time and space on my table, and will not engage in conversation, unless you choose to. Some people like to "zone out" and let their massage take them off to another place and I will not interrupt that.
When your massage is over I will give you ideas on self-care between massages and ideas for how to better move your body and achieve relaxation in your muscles.
As your leave from your session, it is my hope that your can "Float" away with a newfound lightness in your mind & body... until next time.
I often think of the (sometimes) prohibitive cost of health care alternatives, like Massage. Our health insurance pays for preventative care, like yearly wellness checkups, blood work, x-rays, gynecological care, dental checkups, mental health, chiropractic, physical therapy and on and on. But, why is Massage Therapy not covered by our health insurance? Do you ever think that maybe it’s because it would decrease the need for expensive medical procedures and the sale of addictive pharmaceuticals?
In a stressful world such as ours, one of the most natural, proven and effective methods for relief from chronic pain and anxiety is... You guessed it ~ MASSAGE! Many research articles I've read have shown that massage is effective for alleviating pain, anxiety, opioid withdrawal and PTSD too.
Maybe some day health insurance companies will figure this all out, but until then, let's all be pro-active and prioritize our self-care routine, which will lead to better long term health and wellness.
We can't pour from an empty cup!