On Your Health

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The Benefits of Therapeutic Massage Go Beyond Relaxation

Today we have a post from our guest blogger Susan Hawkins, who is a certified massage therapist. Susan has been providing massage therapy services at the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute for many years. She has additional massage certifications specific to cancer patients from Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and MD Anderson Cancer Center.


Rubbing areas that hurt is a natural human response. Even other mammals do this. Massage can help both physically and emotionally. First, it just feels good. The rubbing soothes sore muscles and releases tension. You might already know some of the refreshing or calming effects of massage, such as:   

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Enhanced sleep quality
  • Improved concentration
  • Increased circulation
  • Reduced fatigue

Therapeutic Massage Benefits Go Beyond Relaxation

But did you know massage therapy can do more than just relax you? Therapeutic massage can also help:

  • Mitigate some of the side effects of cancer and cancer therapy
  • Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow (the body’s natural defense system)
  • Release endorphins (amino acids that work as the body’s natural painkiller)
  • Promote tissue regeneration and reduce scar tissue
  • Reduce post-surgery adhesions
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Relieve migraine headache pain
  • Alleviate back pain
  • Increase joint flexibility
  • Aid in muscle recovery
  • Reduce muscle spasms and cramping

Types of Massage

Over the centuries, many massage techniques have developed from around the world including Shiatsu (a Japanese form of acupressure massage that involves exerting pressure on certain key points of the body) and Thai massage (a technique that also involves the use of yoga and certain Traditional Chinese Medicine methods).

As a massage therapist at INTEGRIS, I mostly focus on the following methods of massage.

Oncology Massage. Oncology massage is an approach to massage therapy based in both compassion and specialized massage treatment to help people manage their experience with cancer. Scientific research indicates oncology massage helps improve a cancer sufferer's quality of life.

Benefits include improved relaxation, sleep and immune functions, as well as relief from anxiety, pain, fatigue and nausea.

Oncology massage therapists are trained to "meet people where they are" in their experience with cancer, and to apply highly individualized massage treatments to comfort, nurture, and support them in their process. In some cases, massage can assist in control of the side effects from treatment.

Swedish Massage. This is the massage that comes first to most people's minds. As the best-known type of bodywork performed today, one of the primary goals of the Swedish massage technique is to relax the entire body. This is accomplished by rubbing the muscles with heavy, gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart and light strokes away from the heart. The strokes knead and compress the muscles with deep, circular movements, vibration and tapping.

Swedish massage goes beyond relaxation. It is exceptionally beneficial for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins, and improving circulation and flexibility while easing tension. A study published in The New York Times found volunteers who received a single 60-minute Swedish massage experienced biological changes, such as decreases in their levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases in their number of lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the immune system).

Sports Massage. Similar to Swedish massage, sports massage techniques are used to warm and stretch the muscles, getting circulation to areas that take longer to warm up.

Deep Tissue Massage. This type of massage concentrates on the deep layers of muscles and fascia in the body. By using deep finger pressure and slow, firm strokes, deep tissue massage is used to treat a variety of physical ailments. It also reduces chronic pain, improves blood pressure, breaks up scar tissue, rehabilitates injured muscles, relieves stress and improves sleep.

Massage for Seniors. This type of massage is increasingly used to help ease symptoms that often accompany aging. A massage can relieve pain from tight muscles, improve joint health and mobility, improve posture and coordination, enhance restful sleep, and increase vitality, energy and mental alertness.

Prenatal Massage. Massage can be performed regularly throughout a woman's pregnancy and first postpartum weeks to relieve physical symptoms and help a new mom cope with stress. This massage can be performed while a pregnant woman is lying on her side or is sitting up. (Massage may not be appropriate for all pregnancies).

Chair Massage. This is often used in high-stress environments like airports, trade shows, corporate settings and in some hospitals. Afterwards, the person feels energized, rejuvenated and relaxed, and a chair massage can quickly work wonders for a person's body, mental state and sense of well-being. A chair massage can lower anxiety, increase circulation, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and relieve muscle pain and headaches.


If you would like to talk to Susan about therapeutic massage, she can be reached at 405-250-9428.

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