How Oncology Massage Works

Here are a few reasons why it is so effective:

  • Mechanoreceptors are sensory neurons that respond to mechanical stimuli such as touch and movement, and are located within joint capsular tissues, ligaments, tendons, muscle, fascia and skin. Fascia is a fine connective tissue matrix surrounding every tissue in the body including bones, muscles, and organs. There are several types of mechanoreceptors that respond to different forms of touch and movement. Deep tissue and vigorous massage techniques are not suitable for a cancer patient. In oncology massage we only use gentle and slow massage strokes. Of all the mechanoreceptors, the interstitial receptors are the most abundant, and they are located abundantly within the fascia. Half of the interstitial nerve receptors respond to gentle touch. The interstitial mechanoreceptors are linked with the autonomic nervous system. This means that when stimulated with gentle touch they send a signal to the autonomic nervous system, stimulating the parasympathetic branch of this system – causing the ‘relaxation response’. Tension and pain in muscles will therefore be reduced and the relaxation response can also relieve general pain in the body.
  • Oncology Massage is deeply relaxing because of the gentle and slow strokes. The pace of the massage causes the mind to slow down and the client will often feel more present awareness and calm because of this.
  • Beneficial neurohormones may be released during massage, including endorphins which can reduce pain in the body (and more research needs to be done on this). Clients often report a feeling of well-being and reduction or cessation of pain. Endorphins use the same receptor sites as opioids – having a morphine like effect on the body. Serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin may also be released as some research has suggested, and many clients report feeling less anxious or less depressed as a result of regular massages.
  • Epigenetics: Every cell in your body has a cell membrane, this cell membrane dictates what enters and leaves the cell. The cell surface receptors interact with the interstitial fluid (the fluid surrounding cells in your body). The interstitial fluid is comprised of water, proteins, nutrients, hormones, which are affected by such things as environmental toxins, what we eat and also what we think and feel because the mind and body are linked – your thoughts literally change your chemistry as they can cause neurohormones to be released. Eating well, reducing stress, and minimising toxins can help to create a healthy environment (interstitial fluid) for the cell which in turn effects which cell surface receptors are activated and therefore what enters and leaves the cell. Experiencing “happy” hormones or “molecules of emotion” such as anandamide, serotonin and endorphins will likely effect the health of a cell positively, as the “good stuff” is let into the cell. How does this relate to massage? Because massage causes the relaxation response which can encourage these beneficial neurohormones. These hormones have a natural analgesic (pain-reduction) effect on your body.
  • In various medical research studies massage has been shown to be effective for side-effects of cancer and cancer treatment such as: pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and nausea.