We know that mental wellbeing and physical health are inextricably linked, and in the case of cancer patients, nurturing touch therapies have the capacity to provide mental as well as physical relief during cancer treatment.
Last month, Jennifer Young and her team, highlighted the power of touch and the important role that therapists can play in the mental wellbeing of anyone who has experienced a cancer diagnosis and/or treatment.
While we know that touch therapies can provide physical relief from aches, pains and tension, touch therapies can also provide a wide range of short- and long-term mental health benefits, supporting individuals through difficult periods in their lives and beyond.
Short-term mental wellbeing benefits of massage
The team at Jennifer Young, who provide therapist training in oncology touch treatments, and also manufacture skincare products for use during cancer treatment, highlighted that proven short-term benefits in a range of cancer patients have included:
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced stress
- Less depression
- Eased general fatigue
- Reduced motivation fatigue
- Less emotional fatigue
- Improved sleep
- Reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure
- A decrease in physical discomfort and mood disturbance
A study also showed reduced perception of pain, nausea, and increased relaxation after a 10-minute foot massage with pain intensity, pulse rate, and respiratory rate significantly reduced immediately post massage. At the study entry, a massage group reported higher pain intensity, which decreased by 42% (25% reduction in the control group). The effect of massage on mood disturbances was greater when treated continuously by the same therapist.
In breast cancer patients specifically, touch therapies have been shown to reduce anxiety, depressed moods and anger, increase vigour, improve quality of life, reduced pain and therefore improve mood as well as reduce stress levels.
Long-term benefits of touch therapies on mental wellbeing
The team also highlighted that the long-term benefits of touch therapies have presented as:
- Reduced depression
- Increased urinary dopamine
- Increased serotonin values
- Increased natural killer cell numbers and lymphocytes
- Reduced mood disturbances and perceived stress levels (specifically in breast cancer patients)
“I have never been one to have a regular skin care regime until I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2018. Treatment played havoc with my skin, so I started to ensure that I put my skin care high up on my list. I had found previously that some beauty salons would not allow me to have a massage as they were worried about spreading the cancer. Something my oncologist said was completely over the top and not backed by any evidence. I was free to have massages, especially as it helped my mental health. It’s no secret on my Instagram that I suffer with terrible anxiety related to my cancer. I can’t tell you how much better I feel after a massage, or if I’ve treated myself to some pampering at home. If my hair is nice and my skin feels smooth, then I feel so much better in myself. I treat myself to a massage every couple of weeks and it really helps with the chronic pain I have suffered with since my treatment started.”
Natalie Calway, who experienced Jennifer Young oncology touch treatments and products following a melanoma diagnosis
“After having three breast cancer diagnoses spanning 12 years, from age 26, I have come to realise that being given a breast cancer diagnosis can be less about the physical challenge and more about the emotional resilience. It becomes essential to focus on the things you can control. Having something practical to do to keep grounded and connected is like an anchor. Putting our own needs to the top of the priority list can set us up mentally, because we are proactively helping ourselves and putting things in place to support ourselves, in the way we want and need. Receiving a Jennifer Young massage as a cancer patient felt as though I was doing all of the above.”
Sam Reynolds, who found massage to be a vital part of emotional health during her cancer journey