Reducing Cancer-related Pain with Massage Therapy


Cancer-related pain is a very common symptom yet it can be difficult for patients to find satisfactory relief. Conventional treatments to reduce pain do not always help and the drugs have side effects themselves that patients need to consider. For these reasons, many patients with cancer-related pain turn to complementary therapies for relief and at the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre, we often encourage our patients to consider massage therapy because it can have a significant beneficial effect on cancer-related pain.

A 2015 large review that included data from 12 different studies with over 500 participants with all types of cancer, such as lung, breast, and digestive cancer, evaluated the effects of massage therapy on cancer-related pain. All of the studies in the review contained both a control group of patients either receiving conventional care or no-massage treatment, versus a treatment group that received massage. The average massage treatment time was only about 30 minutes, for an average of 4 treatments. Results show that massage significantly reduced pain due to surgery, treatment (chemotherapy), metastases or cancer-related pain due to a combination of these.

The therapeutic effects of massage are becoming increasingly recognized. Previous research on massage therapy in cancer care has shown improvements in side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, anxiety, depression, anger and stress. Massage is also a safe adjunct therapy as it has almost no adverse effects, however certain treatment effects may depend on the practitioner. At the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre, we recommend our patients seek out a massage therapist who is not only registered with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario, but one that also has clinical experience working with patients with cancer. Sorin Darie, for example, trained in a clinic for cancer patients and so understands both the conventional treatment and its effects, as well as how to safely administer massage to patients with cancer.

Consider massage therapy for improving cancer-related pain and quality of life – it might be make a significant difference in getting some much needed relief.