Abstract and key points
- Massage involves the manipulation of the body’s muscles and soft tissues
- Some evidence indicates that massage may, decrease pain and improve quality of life, nausea, anxiety, stress, fatigue, anger and depression in individuals diagnosed with cancer
- The methodological quality of the research published to date is however mixed
- Massage for cancer patients is generally safe
Classical/Swedish massage involves mechanical manipulation of muscles and soft tissues. Practitioners claim that massage may have several positive effects in the treatment of people suffering from cancer, including psychological improvements (e.g. reduction of anxiety and depression) or alleviation of physical symptoms associated with cancer (e.g. reduction of nausea and strengthening of the immune system). Massage has also been promoted to improve overall quality of life.
Evidence from six systematic reviews (four of which included a meta-analysis), one non-systematic review as well as an additional four controlled trials published after the systematic reviews suggests massage may improve cancer pain and that massage may be a useful supportive care intervention in both adults and children with cancer. The positive health-related quality of life outcomes reported in the studies however are not consistent across the symptoms, so no clear pattern is apparent of benefits for specific symptoms.
Overall, there is some evidence that classical/Swedish massage administered as a symptomatic treatment has benefits for cancer patients and is generally safe. It is not possible to draw firm conclusions due to mixed methodological quality of the available research. Documentation indicates that contraindications include strong forceful massage in patients suffering from haemorrhagic disorders, low platelet counts, and blood thinning medication.
|Citation||Helen Cooke, Helen Seers, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Massage (Classical/Swedish) [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Manipulative-body-based/Massage-Classical-Swedish. September 28, 2016.|
- Natural Medicines Database : Massage [online] https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com, accessed 26th February 2016.
- Ernst E, Pittler MH, Wider B, Boddy K (2008) Oxford Handbook of Complementary Medicine. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Ernst E, Pittler MH, Wider B, Boddy K (2006). The desktop guide to complementary and alternative medicine, 2nd edn. Elsevier Mosby, Edinburgh
- Frey Law LA, Evans S, Knudtson J, Nus S, Scholl K, Sluka KA (2008) Massage reduces pain perception and hyperalgesia in experimental muscle pain: a randomized, controlled trial. J Pain 9(8):714–721
- Coelho HF, Boddy K, Ernst E (2008) Massage therapy for the treatment of depression: a systematic review. Int J Clin Pract 62(2):325–333
- Durkin JL, Harvey A, Hughson RL, Callaghan JP (2006) The effects of lumbar massage on muscle fatigue, muscle oxygenation, low back discomfort, and driver performance during prolonged driving. Ergonomics 49(1):28–44
- Ouchi Y, Kanno T, Okada H, Yoshikawa E, Shinke T, Nagasawa S et al (2006) Changes in cerebral blood flow under the prone condition with and without massage. Neurosci Lett 407(2):131–135
- Aourell M, Skoog M, Carleson J (2005) Effects of Swedish massage on blood pressure. Complement Ther Clin Pract 11(4):242–246
- Mori H, Ohsawa H, Tanaka TH, Taniwaki E, Leisman G, Nishijo K (2004) Effect of massage on blood flow and muscle fatigue following isometric lumbar exercise. Med Sci Monit 10(5):CR173–CR17
- Corbin L. Safety and efficacy of massage therapy for patients with cancer. Cancer Control. 2005; 12(3):158-64.
- Demmer C. A survey of complementary therapy services provided by hospices. J Palliat Med. 2004; 7(4): 510-6
- Molassiotis A et al. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in cancer patients: a European survey. Annals of Oncology 2005; 16: 655-653
- Molassiotis A, Scott JA, Kearney N, Pud D, Magri M, Selvekerova S, Bruyns I, Fernadez-Ortega P, Panteli V, Margulies A, Gudmundsdottir G, Milovics L, Ozden G, Platin N, Patiraki E. Complementary and alternative medicine use in breast cancer patients in Europe. Support Care Cancer. 2006a 14(3):260-7.
- Molassiotis A, Browall M, Milovics L, Panteli V, Patiraki E, Fernandez-Ortega P. Complementary and alternative medicine use in patients with gynecological cancers in Europe. Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2006b Jan-Feb;16 Suppl 1:219-24.
- Molassiotis A, Fernandez-Ortega P, Pud D, Ozden G, Platin N, Hummerston S, Scott JA, Panteli V, Gudmundsdottir G, Selvekerova S, Patiraki E, Kearney N. Complementary and alternative medicine use in colorectal cancer patients in seven European countries. Complement Ther Med. 2005a Dec;13(4):251-7. Epub 2005 Sep 19.
- Molassiotis A, Margulies A, Fernandez-Ortega P, Pud D, Panteli V, Bruyns I, Scott JA, Gudmundsdottir G, Browall M, Madsen E, Ozden G, Magri M, Selvekerova S, Platin N, Kearney N, Patiraki E. Complementary and alternative medicine use in patients with haematological malignancies in Europe. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2005b May;11(2):105-10.
- Molassiotis A, Panteli V, Patiraki E, Ozden G, Platin N, Madsen E, Browall M, Fernandez-Ortega P, Pud D, Margulies A. Complementary and alternative medicine use in lung cancer patients in eight European countries. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2006c Feb;12(1):34-9. Epub 2005 Nov 14.
- Boyd C, Crawford C, Paat CF, Price A, Xenakis L, Zhang W; Evidence for Massage Therapy (EMT) Working Group. The Impact of Massage Therapy on Function in Pain Populations-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: Part II, Cancer Pain Populations. Pain Med. 2016 May 10.
- Lee, S. H., J. Y. Kim, S. Yeo, S. H. Kim and S. Lim. Meta-Analysis of Massage Therapy on Cancer Pain. Integr Cancer Ther 2015 14: 297-304.
- Shin ES, Seo KH, Lee SH, Jang JE, Jung YM, Kim MJ, Yeon JY. Massage with or without aromatherapy for symptom relief in people with cancer. Cochrane Database Systematic Review. 2016 Jun 3;6:CD009873.
Pan, Y. Q., K. H. Yang, Y. L. Wang, L. P. Zhang and H. Q. Liang (2014)
Massage interventions and treatment-related side effects of breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Clinical Oncology 19, 829-841
- Ernst E. Massage therapy for cancer palliation and supportive care: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Support Care Cancer. 2009 Apr;17(4):333-7. Epub 2009 Jan 13.
- Wilkinson S, Barnes K, Storey L. Massage for symptom relief in patients with cancer: systematic review. J Adv Nurs. 2008; 63(5):430-9.
- Ovayolu, O., U. Sevig, N. Ovayolu and A. Sevinc. The effect of aromatherapy and massage administered in different ways to women with breast cancer on their symptoms and quality of life. Int J Nurs Pract 2014 20: 408-417.
- Kashani, F. and P. Kashani. The effect of massage therapy on the quality of sleep in breast cancer patients. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res 2014 19: 113-118.
- Taylor, A. G., A. E. Snyder, J. G. Anderson, C. J. Brown, J. J. Densmore and C. Bourguignon. Gentle Massage Improves Disease- and Treatment-Related Symptoms in Patients with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. J Clin Trials 2014 4.
- Hughes D. Ladas E. Rooney D. Kelly K. Massage therapy as a supportive care intervention for children with cancer. Oncology Nursing Forum. 2008; 35(3):431-42.
- Celebioglu, A., A. Gurol, Z. K. Yildirim and M. Buyukavci. Effects of massage therapy on pain and anxiety arising from intrathecal therapy or one marrow aspiration in children with cancer. Int J Nurs Pract 2014.
- Ernst E. The safety of massage therapy. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2003 Sep;42(9):1101-6.
The present documentation has been compiled by the CAM-CANCER Project with all due care and expert knowledge. However, the CAM-CANCER Project provides no assurance, guarantee or promise with regard to the correctness, accuracy, up-to-date status or completeness of the information it contains. This information is designed for health professionals. Readers are strongly advised to discuss the information with their physician. Accordingly, the CAM-CANCER Project shall not be liable for damage or loss caused because anyone relies on the information.