Complementing Pet Cancer Treatment with Massage Therapy: Dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent treatment process can take both a physical and an emotional toll on a pet just as it does on a person. While the actual cancer treatment can include medication, massage therapy can be used to help your pet deal with the side-effects of the entire process, from pain and fatigue to stress and other physical and emotional reactions. Often referred to a complementary or alternative medicine, massage therapy can offer cancer pet patients many benefits, similar to those for people.
The American Cancer Society, provides some of the benefits touted by supporters and proponents of massage therapy for cancer patients. These include increased relaxation, reduction of anxiety and stress, a temporary increase in the feeling of overall well-being, muscle relaxation, relief from pain and stiffness, increased flexibility and mobility and even faster recovery from fatigue.
However, it is also clearly pointed out that massage therapy should be used only as complementary treatment and that there are no studies to support that it slows down or reverses the development of cancer. It is also important that the cancer patient’s veterinary medical team is aware of the massage therapy and that only trained massage therapists give the massage.
Massage therapy is also promoted by the National Cancer Institute as part of their suggested “Physical, Integrative, Cognitive-Behavioral, and Psychosocial Interventions” to help patients deal with pain management when undergoing cancer treatment.
Clinical studies have began to show that massage therapy can actually increase the body’s release of endorphins, stimulate blood flow, and reduce the feeling of pain with the reduction of cortisol levels and the increase of serotonin and dopamine levels. It might even positively impact the effects of pain medications and reduce inflammation and swelling.
Wake-Forest Health offers a summary entitled, “Possible Massage Therapy Benefits for Individuals with Cancer”, listing the many different benefits cancer patients suffering from mesothelioma, breast cancer or lung cancer, for example, might receive from adding massage therapy as a complementary treatment.
Their information compiled from different studies and articles published since 2000, includes decrease in nausea, fatigue, depression, anxiety, stress and pain. Overall increase in quality of life, including generally feeling better, both emotionally and physically, and coping better with the disease, as well as an increase in the functioning of the immune system are also listed as benefits.
The NYU Langone Medical Center’s Massage Therapy page discusses the research behind massage therapy’s value and the difficulty in designing studies that can truly evaluate the effects of massage therapy. However, it does present the arguments made by supporters of massage therapy, which include that it fulfills a human’s or a pet’s basic instinct to feel connected via touch.
Human cancer patients receiving massage therapy have reported a reduction in pain and increased relaxation immediately after the massage but studies have yet to be made to show if these benefits are sustained for long periods after the massage has ended.
Though further studies need to be made about the impact of massage therapy on cancer patients, the patients themselves seem to observe positive effects on their physical and mental well being when including massage therapy as part of their treatment plans.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and give your pets body, mind and spirit a treat and a little vacation from life’s turmoil’s and get yourself and your pet a rewarding massage.