Cancer Research UK

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Massage therapy

Massage therapy is a system of treatment that works by stroking, kneading, tapping or pressing the soft tissues of the body.

Massage therapy has been used for centuries. It aims to relax you mentally and physically. It may concentrate on the muscles, the soft tissues, or on the acupuncture points.

  • Swedish massage – most common type of full body massage
  • aromatherapy massage
  • deep tissue massage – used for long standing, deep muscular problems
  • sports massage – used before or after sport or to help heal sports injuries
  • Shiatsu
  • neuromuscular massage – helps to balance the nervous system and the muscle
  • reflexology – applied to points on the hands and feet with the aim of improving the health of other parts of the body

How it works

Why people with cancer use it

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • headaches
  • pain

What having massage involves

Possible side effects

Research into massage and cancer

For cancer symptoms

For women with breast cancer

For people with advanced cancer

Teaching massage to carers

Who shouldn’t use massage therapy

  • are having cancer treatment
  • are very weak
  • have bone fractures
  • have heart problems
  • suffer from arthritis
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

The cost of massage therapy

Finding a therapist

Questions you might ask

  • How many years of training have you had?
  • How long have you been practising?
  • Have you had training for treating and supporting people with cancer?
  • Do you have indemnity insurance? (in case of negligence)

Useful organisations