M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Place...of wellness Videos-on-Demand 2008
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Sat Siri Sumler, R.M.T, N.C.T.M.B.
Learn how and when to use massage and the benefits and precautions of massage for patients with cancer.
Massage therapy for cancer patients has become more common in recent years. It can help cancer patients and caregivers, feel better, both physically and emotionally. After a massage, patients may cope with side effects better. It is a way to lessen pain, anxiety and nausea. It also helps to release stress and tension.
Massage, a form of focus touch can also provide comfort and support to a loved one. Family or friends can massage a loved one who has cancer while he or she is seated in a chair, lying on a massage table or even in a hospital bed. This video will teach you when it is safe to massage a person who has cancer and how to massage correctly with gentle slow strokes.
Before starting, let's review when massage should not be used. People with certain medical conditions should not be massaged. Do not massage anyone who has a platelet count below 10,000, untreated heart problem, such as coronary artery disease or heart disease, symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the deep veins of the arm or leg. Symptoms include pain, tenderness or swelling in the arm or leg or increased warmth in the area of the arm or leg that is painful. If you are unsure if massage is safe for your loved one, please talk with a doctor or nurse before starting.
When massaging someone undergoing cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery, it is important to use a gentle touch and light pressure. Use the palm of your hands to make slow smooth movements along the skin. There should be little or no movement of the person's skin as your hands gently glide along the body. Sometimes parts of the body should not be massaged. Do not massage legs if the person cannot get out of bed and walk around. Radiation markings or radiation treatment areas, areas with blood clots, tumors, surgical cuts, wounds and scars, areas near a medical device, such a catheter, port, ostomy or drain, the arm above an IV and arm or leg with lymphedema or at risk of lymphedema. Lymphedema is a build up of fluid in an arm or leg that leads to swelling. It can occur after surgery or radiation to the underarm, groin or abdomen. If your loved one has an infection or has been told he or she has fluid outside the lungs, only give him or her a gentle hand or foot massage. Do not massage other areas of the body.
Also, if you normally need to wear gloves, gown or mask when with your loved one, then it is important to wear these while giving a massage. Again, if you have any questions, please talk with a doctor or nurse before starting.
I'm gonna begin by massaging your back, and your neck and your shoulders while you're lying on your side, since the most comfortable position for you.
Taking some lotion, warming it up, you wanna use enough lotion. In the beginning strokes, you're just applying the lotion. Just gonna hold it in one place so it warms up with the body heat of your partner and then just begin using circular and long slow strokes to cover the full back, shoulders and the neck.
Then you use circular strokes, to continue warming up the area using my full palm against my partner's back. I have the bed raised to a height that's comfortable for me. Not too low, so I'm not using my body weight, when I'm doing the massage, I can be gentle, supportive and nurturing.
So, first I'm getting a feel of the back and find out where the tension is. And then I'm gonna pay attention and massage the upper shoulder along, above the crest of the shoulder blade and have my fingers above the shoulder blade crest, my thumb below. And repeat on the other side. I'm gonna use long, gliding strokes along the back, applying a little more pressure with the base of my heel of my hand on the way down, kind of using the fingertips on the way up, making sure not to apply pressure along the spine, but just going alongside of the spine.
When people are lying in bed especially the low back, but the whole back sometimes gets most achy. So you wanna spend a little extra attention to the low back, again mainly using the fingertips in massaging along the hips and low back area.
Long, slow strokes help relieve nausea and are relaxing. Just let one hand follow the other like a waterfall. Upward fan strokes coming along the side and fanning out to the sides are a little more invigorating. If somebody needs a little pick me up, this is a nice stroke to do.
You can do circular strokes along the neck up in to the base of the skull.
Again, you wanna maintain contact, so if you're lifting one hand off of the body as I'm doing in this stroke, I'm not lifting it until the other hand is in contact with my partner.
Really, the most important to thing about giving massage to your partner is your own presence and awareness that you bring to the massage. It's more important than the technique you use. Also, you wanna feel comfortable while you're doing the massage and the more comfortable you feel, the more comfort you'll bring to your partner.
Just light finger strokes, barely touching the skin and feathering upward.
And there you go.
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