Monday, November 11, 2013

End of Life Cancer and Massage
Michelle Chaves-Torres, Arbor Hospice Complementary
 Therapy Coordinator/Massage Therapist, gives an
Arbor Hospice patient a foot massage.
Massage therapy is very beneficial for cancer patients at the end of life. Many patients experience pain throughout their body when cancer has metastasized, and in addition to traditional medicine, massage provides pain relief by relaxing the body. When someone is in pain, it can be difficult to find a comfortable position. Massage offers relief and facilitates the capacity to relax into a more comfortable state.

Massage improves circulation. More often than not, patients at the end of life are not as mobile as they once were. Sometimes they are confined to a bed or chair. Massage helps to stimulate and encourage circulation, providing nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. It helps to prevent pressure wounds in those that are bedbound by keeping the systems and fluids of the body moving.

Massage also decreases swelling often present in the arms and legs due to an impaired circulatory system from radiation or chemotherapy. A certain type of massage, called Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage, stimulates the circulatory system to move excess fluids out of the body.

On an emotional level, end of life cancer patients may be suffering from depression. Routine massage often alleviates some of the signs and symptoms of depression. Massage stimulates the release of a hormone called an endorphin, a "feel good hormone." Researchers believe that because a massage can promote relaxation and release endorphins, massage can enhance someone's mood.

Sleep deprivation is another common aliment for end of life cancer patients. Massage provides the environment for more restful sleep and/or assists patients into a relaxing deep sleep. I have had many patients tell me "I feel like a new person after receiving a massage," or "I wake up feeling so refreshed."

Patients at Arbor Hospice benefit from massage intervention to alleviate pain, improve circulation and elevate mood. On average, 12-18 patients receive massage treatments per week throughout Arbor Hospice's seven county service area. In a future blog post, I will provide simple steps on how to give a hand or foot massage. That way, you'll be able to give massage therapy to someone you love.

This blog entry was written by Michelle Chaves-Torres, Arbor Hospice Complementary Therapy Coordinator/Massage Therapist. You can contact her by commenting below or emailing her at 


  1. Very informational.

  2. Massage therapy is one of the best treatment for your body pain.. take yearly once full body massage.. this very informative post.. thanks