The Merits of Massage Therapy in Palliative Care

The Merits of Massage Therapy in Palliative Care

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition —or one that may lead to palliative care — there are some measures you can take to reduce and alleviate some of the physical and psychological side effects of the diagnosis.

Each of these measures can work towards minimizing the toll of an understandably stressful and emotional situation and can significantly improve quality of life. One of these measures is massage therapy.

Doctors in China used massage as a therapeutic healing tool as far back as 2700 BC. Today, the basics are the same. Massage can be used in conjunction with other treatments and medications in various scenarios, including helping individuals overcome sports injuries, aiding people experiencing workplace stress, helping to reduce the frequency of headaches, and so much more.

Massage can also be used as a tool for those providing palliative care. Today, leading with highly trained interdisciplinary teams often include massage in their tailored care packages.

Massage Therapy Should Be Tailored to Palliative Care

First, it’s important to note that Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) administering care to palliative clients require additional training that equips them with the knowledge to work safely in this field.

These RMTs will know how to adjust their treatment style and techniques to match their patients’ mental and physical health. For example, some clients will be unable to lie face-down — an RMT trained in the nuances of palliative care should know other positions they can work around while still providing a beneficial massage.

Similarly, some clients may require a lighter touch, while others may need some areas — wound sites, inflamed skin, or others — to be avoided altogether.

How Massage Can Help Those in Palliative Care

Massage can help individuals in palliative care in a wide assortment of ways. Here are just a few.

It Reduces Pain Intensity and Joint Stiffness

Massage has been shown to alleviate back and joint pain and muscle aches. A Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice study found that individuals who received four weekly hand massage sessions reported reduced hand pain and improved grip strength.

It Eases Feelings of Anxiety and Depression

Many people receiving palliative care report experiencing anxiety, stress, and depression. Massage has been found to ease some of these mental symptoms.

An article by Psychology Today reported that “consistent anecdotal evidence, a long history of widespread use of massage for stress reduction, and positive findings of open trials support the view that regular massage therapy reduces the severity of chronic to moderate anxiety in general.”

Further, for some, reducing pain and stress can help relieve depression.

Massage Helps with Relaxation

The healing power of the human touch, partnered with the effect of massage — which causes the muscle and soft tissue to loosen — can allow the recipient to experience a deep sense of relaxation. When a person can relax, even for a moment, their sense of pain is reduced, which offers brief inner peace and the ability to regroup mentally.


Massage therapy can help most people in some capacity. However, for those navigating a serious illness or palliative care, the effects are profound, making massage therapy worth serious consideration.

Healthy Lifestyle