Medical and Oncology Massage

Medical and Oncology Massage

What Is Medical and Oncology Massage?

My coursework in specific massage modalities had time for both Medical Massage and Oncology Massage.  Both of these are very specific modalities that bring therapists a very specific client looking for a very specific outcome.

In many cases these clients are referred to the therapist by one of their traditional medical doctors or someone on their care of treatment team.  I will note that at this time massage is being seen as increasingly mainstream in the treatment of many medical conditions and is seen as a part of a holistic and comprehensive treatment for those who have cancer and are undergoing treatment.

I will note that the coursework specific to medical and oncology massage that I had as part of my 1000 hour program was brief and designed more to be an introduction to these modalities.

Working with individuals who are chronically or seriously ill takes a special someone.  I had a conversation today with someone who specifically asked if I would judge them and their body on my table because they are overweight.  This was a relatively healthy man who had some hesitancy and body image questions and was comfortable enough to verbalize them.

This is the exception rather than the rule.  Most people have at least some body image or appearance issues.  The vast majority of people are uncomfortable talking about these issues.

Now imagine this same person…someone who already has body image issues…now has cancer and is seeking out massage therapy services.  This person trusts you enough to disrobe and receive touch.  This is where the poker face comes into play.  I’ve spent my fair share of time in hospice situations with loved ones.

The face that you see when someone is undergoing cancer treatments is not their own.  The appearance of a cancer patient may be shocking the first time.  I’m not just referring to hair loss, but also to the gauntness or swelling of the face that many patients have.

Our job as a massage therapist is to treat our clients with unconditional positive regard.  The massage table is place where they can have an opportunity to leave cancer and treatment behind for the duration of their session.

Learning to present a welcoming face may be a skill that you need to work on.  Or you may be someone who has watched a loved one go through cancer treatment and knows exactly what I am talking about.

Nonetheless, in most cases we as therapists have done our best to create a mini-retreat in our space (massage clinic, room or otherwise).  We have soft clean linens, soothing music, ambient lighting, and decorations that are meant to put our client at ease.

This is the easy part.  We need to learn to be at east across the board in order to best serve our clients as a whole.

In my conversation today with the gentleman who had some body image concern, I responded that I am in no place to judge anyone else.  I have an ethical responsibility to treat any client who comes into my professional space with the utmost respect (clients who have expectation of sexual massage or who are disruptive to the session in any manner will be asked to leave).

I write this article because I remember when my own brother passed away and how at the end I should have prepared some close family friends better.  It would have protected Jared’s self-respect and allowed for them to perhaps have better communication for those last conversations.

It was the same when my Mother In-Law passed away….but I was older and wiser…and I did my best to prepare my husband so that he could have more connection for those last days.

Poker face seems like a flip reference for such a serious undertaking…but it is something that I want you all to be aware of.  We only have one chance for a first impression…and if our client sees shock, fear, or apprehension, then their session is not going to be the opportunity to relax and escape that it could be.  Just something to think about….until next time…breathe.