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The idea that touch can heal is an old one. Massage can be used to improve body posture and functioning. It is used for muscle and bone discomfort, improvement of circulation, reduction in swelling, improvement of lymphatic drainage, relaxation, and pain control. It can relieve headaches, backaches, stiffness and insomnia. It can be used as a complement to other medical treatments or just as a stress reducer and a “feel good” therapy.
Massage therapy involves touch and different techniques of stroking or kneading the muscles of the body. It can involve only part of the body or a full body massage. Massage may be done through one’s clothing or on the exposed skin. Several different types of massage have developed over time in different cultures. These include Swedish massage (most common in the U.S.), Oriental massage, shiatsu and Thai massage. Massages usually occur in a warm, comfortable room and last about one hour. It can be done in specialized chairs or on a table. As muscles are rubbed, blood vessels dilate, blood flow increases, lymph circulation is stimulated, oxygen supply increases and overall circulation throughout the body improves. Therapeutic massage therapy should only be done by a licensed massage therapist.
Studies have shown massage to reduce headaches, boost the immune system, lower anxiety and stress. Human touch can stimulate the brain to produce endorphins, the natural pain suppressors of the body. Massage can increase lymph flow and circulation. The manipulations or kneading action of massage can directly benefit muscle tissue function. Studies have shown that massage can relieve and manage chronic and acute pain and contribute to improved confidence, the relaxation response and a sense of well being.
By making this information available, neither the Patient Family Education Council nor Dana-Farber Cancer Institute makes any recommendations, promises, or guarantees the effectiveness of this complementary therapy. For any serious condition please contact your doctor before trying any new therapy. If you do decide to try this modality of therapy, please inform your doctor or nurse so all practitioners can work together to help you in the healing process.
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