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Massage to Relieve Neuropathy Caused by Chemotherapy

written by: Vikas Vij • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 11/14/2010

Massage and chemotherapy induced neuropathy may have a complementary relationship, as reported by many patients who have experienced pain relief with massage therapy. Massage can help to improve blood circulation which is critical to battle peripheral neuropathy.

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    Massage to Relieve Neuropathy Caused by Chemotherapy

    Chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) can cause debilitating pain and hinder the patient from performing his or her everyday chores comfortably. There are a number of treatment approaches to address this trouble, including massage treatment. The relationship between massage and chemotherapy induced neuropathy can show positive results in many cases. Sometimes massage may be combined with other physical exercises and treatments such as reflexology to achieve better results.

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    Benefits of Massage for Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy

    Massage is an alternative treatment that has been traditionally used to treat peripheral neuropathy arising from various diseases including cancer. As a complementary therapy, massage is being recommended by many physicians for pain management following chemotherapy induced neuropathy. Massage therapy helps to enhance blood circulation in the nerves affected by chemotherapy. It induces activity in the underlying soft tissue, eases nerve traps and curbs the pain triggers. The primary goal of massage therapy is to improve blood circulation which is critical to fight off neuropathy.

    In addition to improving the blood circulation, massage can help in muscular stimulation and relaxation of the nerve endings that are causing pain or numbness following chemotherapy. Reduction of muscular tension due to massage is an established fact and there have been several studies to demonstrate the benefits of massage. However, there are no clear studies on its actual benefits in improving a neuropathic condition, but many patients report back to their physicians indicating relief from pain following massage therapy.

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    Communication with the Massage Therapist

    To achieve success in pain relief with massage therapy, it is very important that the patient should communicate and discuss his or her level of pain, numbness, tingling sensation, burning sensation, or general weakness of the nerves with the therapist in detail. Accordingly, the therapist can decide the appropriate treatment approach to suit the patient’s condition. In some cases, a very light touch massage may be required to soothe the tingling nerves, while in some cases massage with friction may be necessary to provide relief from painful cramps. It is also important to decide whether the patient needs a full body massage or a partial massage therapy. Therefore, adequate communication between the patient and the therapist is crucial to achieve success with this treatment.

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    Risks with Massage Therapy

    Not every cancer patient who suffers from chemotherapy induced neuropathy is a good candidate for massage. Before going ahead with the treatment, it is important to consult your physician for expert advice. The physician will evaluate your condition to ensure that you are a fit candidate for this treatment or not. Furthermore, it should be clear that there have been no specific and authoritative scientific studies establishing a direct link between massage and chemotherapy induced neuropathy. In any case, the patient should use massage only as a complementary treatment, and not as a primary treatment for neuropathy. It is also important to perform this alternative treatment under the supervision of a licensed massage therapist only.

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    Reference:

    http://www.uihealthcare.com/topics/medicaldepartments/cancercenter/peripheralneuropathy/index.html

    http://www.chemocare.com/complementary_therapy.asp

    “Complimentary Therapy in Depth" (Retrieved on Nov. 12, 2010)