Oncology massage and healing touch are natural alternatives for pain relief in cancer patients
01/22/2019 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Pain is a common and distressing side effect of cancer and its associated treatments. Fortunately, a team of researchers from Atrium Health has found natural alternatives that provide immediate relief from cancer-related pain. In their study, the research team found that both healing touch and oncology massage therapies can relieve pain brought about by cancer.

The study, which was published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, examined and compared the effectiveness of healing touch and oncology massage therapies on cancer-related pain. To carry out the study, the research team recruited 572 cancer outpatients to undergo a single session of either healing touch or oncology massage from a certified practitioner.

Healing touch is a biofield therapy based on ancient Eastern healing practices. The practitioner uses light, gentle touch, and/or make sweeping hand motions near the patient's body to restore and balance energy. In oncology massage, the therapist applies gentle pressure and kneads the muscles and joints of the patient to relieve physical and emotional stress.

Out of the 572 participants, 291 of them received healing touch, while the remaining 281 received oncology massage. Healing therapy and oncology were tailored to the needs of the patients. The cancer patients also reported pain before and after receiving the intervention.

The results showed that both healing touch and oncology massage significantly reduced pain in cancer patients. However, the duration of pain relief was not determined in the study.


Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that both healing touch and oncology massage therapies hold potential as natural alternatives in treating pain caused by cancer and its associated treatments.

How alternative therapies help cancer patients

Alternative therapies provide pain and anxiety relief to cancer patients, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) Monographs. The study revealed that alternative therapies such as bodywork and Chinese acupressure and acupuncture significantly reduced pain and anxiety among cancer patients.

Researchers from Allina Health at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis looked at the data gathered from over 1,800 cancer patients who had received an alternative therapy in combination with traditional therapy at least once while hospitalized. The patients had a range of cancers, such as lymphoma and cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, bronchus, and trachea.

The alternative therapies included in the study were bodywork, such as head massage, body massage, and reflexology; mind-body and energy therapies, such as meditation and guided imagery; and traditional Chinese medicine, including acupressure, acupuncture, and Korean hand therapy.

Before and right after every alternative therapy session, the patients answered questionnaires rating their pain and anxiety levels on a 10-point scale, with zero being "no pain (or anxiety)" and 10 being "worst pain (or anxiety) imaginable."

The study found that the cancer patients reported an average of 47 percent decrease in their levels of pain and a 56 percent decline in their anxiety levels right after receiving the alternative therapy. Lung, bronchus, and trachea cancer patients reported the greatest reduction in pain, while prostate cancer patients reported the greatest decrease in anxiety.

Therapeutic body massage, reflexology, acupressure, and acupuncture were the most effective for reducing pain, although there was no significant difference observed among the therapies for reducing anxiety. (Related: Acupuncture at these specific points alleviates pain in cancer patients.)

"We’re thrilled that these are low-toxic, low-risk and relatively low-cost solutions to managing pain and anxiety in an acute care setting, which is very challenging," said Jeffrey Dusek, one of the authors of the study.

With these findings, the researchers also suggested that alternative therapies may play a role in reducing the use of addictive and harmful opioid drugs for the treatment of cancer-related pain.

Read more news stories and studies on natural alternatives for pain relief like healing touch and oncology massage by going to HealingArts.news.

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