Central Maryland School of Massage

Massage Therapy Relieves Children with Cancer: Study Revealed

A study suggests massage therapy helps promote quality of life among children with cancer.


Frederick, MD -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/17/2014 -- Massage therapy promotes general improvement in physical (i.e. reduced muscle soreness, improved muscle relaxation, discomfort, and respiratory rate), psychological well-being (i.e. reduced state and train anxiety and overall emotional well-being), and quality of life among pediatric cancer patients. Cancer cases among children continue to increase, driving health care providers to look for cheaper palliative treatment options for managing symptoms of both the illness and its treatment. In this regard, complementary and alternative procedures, such as massage therapy, are becoming popular.

The International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork published a pioneer research in 2009, aimed to measure the physical and psychological effects of massage therapy on pediatric oncology and hematology patients. It was also done to discover the feasibility of applying this care as a palliative treatment option in a cancer clinic setting. The authors reported, “massage therapy may improve circulation and immune function, dissolve soft adhesions, reduce swelling and relieve the pain and stress associated with many illnesses.”

A random, non-blinded study was done at the University of Florida, Gainesville Shands Hospital Cancer Center. Thirty children with cancer or blood diseases, aged six months to 17 years, participated in the research. Caution was done by seeking gender equality and diversity in age, disease and inpatient or outpatient status to produce unbiased results. The parents also participated as reporting support when necessary. The respondents’ adverse physical and psychological symptoms in relation with cancer and cancer care were noted before, during and after the massage therapy intervention.

In the treatment group, inpatients received four 20-minute sessions of Swedish massage which were delivered once daily for about four days, or once a week for around four weeks for the outpatients. The massage therapy was done by a licensed, nationally certified massage therapist in the state of Florida, who has five years of experience. The treatment was composed of effleurage, kneading, percussion, compression and friction, and was applied to areas most comfortable for the patients – on the hands, feet, arms, neck, shoulders, and back. The volunteers’ hospital robes were not removed and covers were supplied to make sure the participants are comfortable. No massage was done to the control group.

The patients’ vital signs, muscle soreness, discomfort level, and emotional data were documented before and after each session. The general clinical progress scale was also accomplished after the second, third and fourth sessions. Standardized procedures such as State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC), and the Child Health Questionnaire-Parent (CHQ-Parent) were selected for validity and applicability for this participant population. These were done by the participants, parents or both before the first and after the final session. Same data collection schedules were followed for both treatment and control groups. The control participants were seen in the same setting, for the same period of time for conversation and play with the therapist.

The results showed no significant differences between the treatment and control groups at baseline before the treatment intervention. However, a number of the measures produced significant mean changes for the treatment group in comparison with the control group after the treatment. Participants who received the massage therapy showed decreased discomfort, muscle soreness, respiratory rate, state and anxiety and faces “I Feel…” scores. There were no significant differences between the treatment and control groups for physical and psychological health before or after treatments, based on the CHQ-Parent questionnaire. The same was determined for physiological measures, such as pulse rate and blood pressure.

The study denotes that massage therapy treatments can be successfully added to cancer clinics and oncology wards, despite its busy nature, since the findings of the pioneer study were consistent with other related cancer studies. Insufficient research has been done on the effects of therapeutic massage on pediatric oncology or hematology patients. Further studies need to be done on a wider range of symptoms and to better conclude the study results.

About Central Maryland School of Massage
Central Maryland School of Massage is member of the TruMantra family of schools and offers a 7 month full-time program in Massage Therapy. Students are able to practice massage in their last month in our Student Clinic. This clinic provides students with an opportunity to practice their client interaction skills, and work with a variety of client needs, as presented by individuals in the community. Our Student Clinic is open to the public and provides reduced price full-body massages.