Written by Dr. Ram Mani Bhandari
Massage is a technique of manipulation, rubbing, and kneading of the muscles and soft tissue to enhance function of those tissues and promote relaxation. Massage is very popular complementary therapy for most of illness and also can help reduce stress, anxiety, and pain in people who have serious illnesses such as cancer. Massage is also used to relieve pain and stiffness, increase mobility, rehabilitate injured muscles, and reduce the pain of headaches and backaches.
Ayurvedic massage is the special treatment for removing toxins from the body. It is called Abhyanga in Sanskrit language. Abhyanga is the external application of oil for preparing toxins to come out during Panchakarma (ayurvedic detoxification). Ayurvedic massage is done with specific dosha pacifying oils and believed to have lots of benefits like nourishes the body, muscles, bone, nerves, impart tone and vigour of the body, improves immunity and a lot. Ayurveda advocate abhyanga for most of illness and also can be done for the prevention in healthy body. So Ayurvedic massage is different from rest of massage technique like Swedish, aromatherapy, thai massage, shiatu, reflexology massages.
Relation between cancer and Massage
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start. We should know how cancer develops. Our body is made up of many types of cell and tissues. There is normally cell division to replace old and damaged cells when they die. But sometimes this process goes wrong and genetic material DNA of a cell can become changed or damaged producing abnormal cell growth and division. This cause new cells form and cells do not die when they should which can produce mass of tissue called a tumour.
When there is cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or drug therapy are planned as per the case. Massage therapy is a complementary system for the mainstream. Massage therapy cannot treat the cancer but helps to reduce the side effect of mainstream treatments and add quality of life. Studies of massage for cancer patients suggest massage can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and fatigue.
Cancer is called Arbuda in Ayurveda and when it is malignant it is called Karkatar arbuda. The cause of all diseses are mostly due to toxins collected in our body during lifestyle. Ayurveda suggests Panchakarma (detoxification) as the first line of treatment for all kind of illness. Abhyanga (Oleation ) or application of oil over the body is primary treatment for panchakarma. Also first cancer cases we can plan for panchakarma for purification where Ayurvedic massage is plays most important roles to prepare toxins to expel out.
Possible problems and Complication
Researches shows massage may be helpful for both its physical and psychological benefits for cancer patients. But we have to careful on massage on following reasons.
- Infections: If you have recent chemotherapy and WBC count is low which increase on massage.
- If you have cancer of bone and bone metastasis. There is risk of fracture on pressure massage.
- Immediate response to lotions or oils used to massage.
- Skin breakdown on rubbing especially during radiation therapy.
- Another concept is that, cancer cells can spread through lymphatic system which is a part of immune system itself. When there is massage, muscle contract and compress lymph vessels to force movement of cancer cells through lymph node. Cancer spread through circulation of lymph from massage or other movements.
- Some Researches show that cancer develops and spread through changes in DNA of cells and other processes in the body only.
- Ayurvedic massage is done with herbal oils which is nourishing type for cell, tissues, organ and whole system. While doing massage over the body it is not only nourishing the healthy cells but also cancerous cells get nourishment which is the risk factor to think about.
These above are some of possible theoretical risk if cancerous tumours get massage can spread also. In one study, massage therapy brought about immediate pain relief for those suffering with cancer. While the benefits didn’t last too long, massage was found to be a safe and effective way of controlling pain during chemotherapy and radiotherapy too. Ayuvedic massage is safe than rest of massage as it is gentle massage with herbal oils. Even massage is treatment of cancer only massage is incomplete of Ayurvedic purification treatment. If we are proceeding to deep purification treatment like Vamana, Virechana, Vasti, Nasya or Raktamokshana then we must do massage. Otherwise we should think before planning abhyanga (ayurvedic massage) for cancer patients. We should look over the location of cancer cells, duration of cancer, undergoing treatments and all. It is better not to touch location of tumour either it may be in metastasis stage. Instead we can plan for Shiroabhyanga and padabhyanga which is very effective deep relax treatment for most of cases. These are safe and possible Ayurvedic massage for cancer to control their pain, stress, anxiety, depression and side effect of chemotherapy, Radiotherapy etc.