Perhaps we have had a loved one experience the devastating effects of cancer; maybe we want to pay forward to others what they have received; or perhaps it is time to expand our holistic healing skills and knowledge and provide their expertise in other venues.
What we all have in common is the desire to provide comfort, pain relief and support to men and women who are on a healing journey that is frightening, stressful, and at times very uncertain.
We have enhanced our clinical skills and knowledge; traversed the intrinsic infrastructure of the hospital environment; and most importantly we have had the incredible opportunity to work with the patient community in the cancer care and acute care inpatient facilities in both hospitals.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Massage can have a powerful touch that many cancer patients, especially in the hospital setting, can benefit from. It is a small act of caring that can help to turn a life around. Massage is an ancient technique that has recently become popular with cancer patients in treatment settings. Although massage doesn’t actually treat cancer, it does help minimize the side effects of the cancer treatments.
The benefits of massage have been scientifically studied on people having cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgeries. It has been shown to reduce pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression. It also helps with mental clarity, sleep and the patients overall quality of life.
During the HBMT Level I and II Training at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, MA the Massage Therapists assigned to the inpatient cancer care and acute care floors had the opportunity to observe and reinforce the benefits of massage on this population.
The following interactions are just a few of the moving learning moments that these Massage Therapists experienced at St. Anne’s Hospital:
Lisa Pere-Silva, LMT
Saint Anne's Hospital
Fall River, MA
One of my first patients was a fifty year old female diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer. We first met while she was in infusion and accompanied by a family member. She looked extremely distraught as she had just recently learned of her cancer diagnosis. I greeted her with a warm smile and after some gentle conversation asked her if she would like a massage. Her response was, “give it to someone else.” She gestured to her family member, suggesting that I give them a massage instead of her. She explained that she had always been the caregiver and it was hard for her to relinquish that role and allow people to take care of her for a change. I assured her that I had time to give both of them massages and with that she consented. During her fifteen minute massage, I witnessed how she was able to relax more. She calmed down long enough to forget where she was and forget that she had cancer for just a moment.
morning report and her situation seemed dire. She was preparing to go to the operating room for a high-risk surgery. Her nurse encouraged me to go see her. At first I didn’t recognized her as she had an nasogastri tube coming out of her nose, her face was thinner than I had remembered and her eyes were shut. I touched her hand. She opened her eyes and flashed me a huge smile. Her face lit up. She was clearly happy to see me. She welcomed a massage. The massage released some of her anxiety of the impending surgery. She made it through her surgery successfully.
Another patient I treated with massage was a fifty five year old male with cancer that had spread throughout his body. He’d recently had a stem cell transplant. He was open to having a massage but a little bit embarrassed, he admitted. He reported that his pain and anxiety levels went from a seven down to a five following his massage. He found the massage to be a very enjoyable experience and requested to have another treatment while he was at the hospital.
Hospital experiences can provoke anxiety in many patients. This is especially true of patients who have been diagnosed with cancer and have to be in a hospital setting frequently. Their treatment is daunting. Even all of the needles involved in treatment can be scary, painful and anxiety provoking.
Gentle massage is safe for patients going through cancer treatment regardless of their stage of cancer. Massage can create calm in a hospital setting. It is not a cure for cancer but it has had many positive effects on patients undergoing treatment. It reduces pain levels and has been shown to help in the recovery and healing process.
Hippocrates said, “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”
I would like to see that patients having cancer treatment St Anne’s always have the opportunity to access this form of healing.
Victoria Tavares, LCMT
Saint Anne’s Hospital
Fall River, MA
As you all know a hospital can be a pretty hectic place. Patients are there because their bodies are not in homeostasis. They are in pain, nervous, anxious and stressful. They want to feel better and get back to their lives and families. Their families hover around the patient waiting for answers and solutions that will bring their loved ones back to normal.
Tension is usually high in a majority of patients, and agitation is not only felt by the patient and their families, but also by the hospital staff who are tending to them and their needs.
Muscular System – release tightness and spasms and remove toxins from muscles.
Skeletal System - it improves joint stiffness and increases range of motion.
Cardiovascular System - aides by dilating the blood vessels, assisting venous flow back to the heart; and decreasing blood pressure, which helps with relaxation.
Nervous System -the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated promoting relaxation and reduced stress. Endorphins are also released to enhance a good mood. Integumentary System – improves circulation to encourage cell regeneration and vaso-dilation to improve skin color. Also it increases the production of sebum and helps resistance to infection.
Digestive System - massage helps relieve constipation, colic and gas by increasing peristalsis.
Physiological effects of massage encourage positive body image and awareness through relaxation. It may also ease emotional trauma.
HBMT Level II Training at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, MA has afforded the opportunity to observe and document the effects of massage on the following patients:
A female patient in her 20’s, who had been admitted as a result of a drug overdose, was presented to the MT. The patient stated she had a pain level of 6 and anxiety level of 6. After a 20 minute back massage the patient stated her pain level went down to a 3, and she had no more anxiety.
A female patient, a nurse, in her mid 30’s had surgery to remove kidney stones. Her pain level was a 4. The patient’s background made her well acquainted with the hospital setting so there was no anxiety. After a 20 minute back massage she stated her pain was down to a 2.
A female in her 80’s came to the hospital for rectal bleeding. She was being treated for a UTI, and was later that day going to go for a colonoscopy. The MT noticed she had bi-lateral bruising on her anterior cuboidal fossa; patient stated there was a problem drawing blood from her. She reported she had a pain level of 5 and an anxiety level of 10. After a 30 minute bi-lateral foot massage her pain level went down to a 3 and her anxiety down to a 6.
MTs are very focused and aware of the fragile and health compromised conditions of the patients they are working with and use massage strokes, referred to as Pressure Levels 1 and 2. These massage strokes are very slow, soft and gentle. Just like caressing a baby!
When working with all the patient’s at St. Anne’s the MT always used these pressure levels.
These reduction numbers in the pain levels may seem small to some but the point is that through touch and not medication pain and anxiety levels can be reduced.
Massage gives patients a personal one on one encounter where there is no poking or prodding, just a nice soft touch, tranquility and relaxation during their hospital stay, something that is very important in what is a high anxiety environment to many.