Massage after Breast Cancer

Women who’ve had breast cancer often are recovering from breast surgery. After surgery, common issues are pain and restricted or limited range of motion compared to pre-surgery activity.

For most, recovery consists of rest, medication, and physical therapy but recent research has proved that massage therapy helps manage pain levels and with range of motion, in addition to the mental benefits for depression and anxiety.

With any invasive surgery you will develop scar tissue from the incision site but did you know that scar tissue affects range of motion beyond the incision site? Massaging scar tissue (once healed) keeps the tissue from hardening so much that it affects your movements and the muscles surrounding it.

After surgery, the swelling and bruising of tissues causing discomfort and pain are the same reasons to not want to get a massage. The idea of lying on a table on your chest or being pressed against the padding of a massage chair likely sounds awful. To that I can say there are other ways to comfortably have a massage. Having a breast cancer patient on the massage table just means they are in a side-lying position for easier access to the back and being on the back is also possible.

For those still using drainage tubes I can help assist them onto the table if needed and I am a certified nurse aide so have quite a bit of experience with post-surgery patients. I supply towels, blankets, and pillows, to make your session as comfortable as possible. For post-surgery patients I offer complimentary essential oils if desired.

Medical evidence suggests massage may speed up healing and lessen the recovery period.

In the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, it showed that myofascial massage, was able to “significantly reduce the pain and disability associated with breast cancer surgery.”

For the study, 21 women recovering from breast surgery, randomly selected, received either myofascial massage or Swedish massage.

Each woman had 16 massage treatments over eight weeks. They were questioned about pain, disability and quality of life at the start and end of the study.

The evaluator and data collector did not know which massage they were given.

The participants with myofascial massage had a significant reduction in pain and a significant increase in mobility, a feeling of better general health, AND overall quality of life when compared to the other group.

“Myofascial massage is a technique that focuses on applying fascial holds, stretching, stroking, and varied pressure to tissue at modified depths.”

With breast surgery, the fascia which covers muscle is cut through and when fascia heals it becomes tight, uncomfortable and inflamed. “Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that encases your body under your skin like a wetsuit and wraps itself around every muscle, joint, and organ.”

Because of this it needs to retain its flexibility to keep everything running smoothly. For pain relief and better mobility massage can help and complement traditional medicine and treatments.

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