What is "restorative" massage?

I describe my work with clients as restorative because the therapeutic impact of massage helps us re-set our personal and physical experiences. I use many different Modalities, or techniques, that can help facilitate an effective change for your needs.

If you need injury treatments I use a medical massage approach in helping you restore function. Treatment plans typically include a focus on specific muscle groups, their function and strength. We work to help you restore range of motion, reduce pain, and build strength that helps you return to everyday activities.

If you are dealing with chronic pain/illnesses, restorative massage is particularly helpful because it engages your parasympathetic nervous system. This relaxation response helps renew your sense of self and allows your body & mind to rebalance. Specifically this means lowering the heart rate, returning blood pressure to normal, and aiding digestion.

To break the stress cycle, frequent restorative massage provides the opportunity for relaxation and helps your body systems rebalance. This rebalancing allows you to connect with your own sense of peace, calm, and stillness. It may help you realign with what is good and healthy within your body, even in the midst of illness, injury or chronic pain.

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What is "oncology" massage?

The Society for Oncology Massage defines it as: the adaptation of massage to safely nurture body, mind and spirit of anyone dealing with cancer.

My approach in Oncology massage is integrated and client centered. My work with you helps engage the therapeutic qualities of relaxation. Your parasympathetic nervous system calms down in this case; it aids your digestion process, your heart rate decreases, and blood pressure returns to normal.

The focus in oncology massage is to help you manage the short and long term side effects of treatment. Massage that is restorative in nature works to support your body’s ability to heal and helps provide relief from symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, pain, nausea, and depression. Massage provided within a challenging life event such as cancer, gives you the opportunity to reintegrate various aspects of yourself, supporting your sense of wholeness and well being. Massage gives you the okay to rest, and provides a safe place to accept yourself as you are.

As an oncology massage therapist I adjust my approach in each session by applying appropriate modalities, using specific pressure levels, adjusting for positioning and site restrictions. This is done to support you in your plan of care, and is important to your safety and comfort.

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How can massage help people with cancer?

The diagnosis of cancer quickly changes a person’s life. Learning to manage that change is an on going process that takes time. Your massage appointment can provide the time and place for you to reintegrate and connect with your “new normal”. Massage can help diminish the side effects of treatment, and can give you a sense of comfort. Massage in and of itself is not a treatment for cancer; it is instead a way to support your body’s ability to heal.

Recent research has demonstrated that massage reduces anxiety. Some studies show that massage decreases short term pain, and may decrease pain medication use. Other studies demonstrate reduced nausea, fatigue and general symptom relief. Frequent sessions may help you stay the course of your treatments.

For more information on current research in massage and cancer, please visit the Research of the Society for Oncology Massage web site.

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How does massage work in my plan of care?

To help ourselves heal from injury, illness or chronic health issues, we increasingly use complementary therapies like massage to manage side effects of treatments, restore function, or help reduce stress.

In seeking treatment for medical issues, we expect primary health care practitioners to fix our broken bodies. We hold a dualistic notion that we are either broken and in pieces, or fixed and whole. When we are faced with life threatening diseases or events, we rely heavily on traditional treatments which help us fix our broken parts.

When we add massage, nutrition or other complementary services with traditional treatments, we support our plan of care. This integrative approach assists our healing process and can help us find a new sense of balance.

Frequent massage helps us connect with this new pattern. It gives us an opportunity to change our habits and experiences. Over time, this resetting helps us establish a new way of living. You may feel as if you are awakening to a new way of being.

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Does massage spread cancer?

No. Many people have heard that massage spreads cancer through the blood stream and lymphatic system. We have learned that normal activities in daily life, like exercise, are more vigorous than massage. Metastasis is a very complex process and does not spread through a mechanical means such as exercise or massage. With specific adaptations massage is very safe and helpful.

In extremely simplified terms, cancer is the body’s response to a "genetic error" message. Cancer that has spread is the result of an accumulation of genetic mutations that are sending the wrong signal to the body; some of these mutations are acquired, some are inherited. Additionally, there is no scientific evidence that suggests increasing circulation through exercise/massage forms new tumors at distant sites.

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What can I expect during my massage?

Once you arrive, we will discuss your current health. You will lay on a very comfortable massage table, often but not always, with a heated pad for warmth. I undrape only the body part I am working on, so you are warm and your privacy is respected.

Source: AMTA Photo File 2008

The modalities I use will vary depending on your specific needs at the time of your massage. The average time on the table is 30 to 60 minutes. If you would like more time, please talk with me when we book your appointment. Most important is that you have the opportunity to take a time out for your healing.

At anytime during your massage, I ask that you tell me in the moment if something doesn’t feel right, or is not comfortable. We work together to ensure your comfort, safety, and sense of well-being

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How can I get started with massage?

It's easy... Just follow these steps:

Please note that all massage sessions are scheduled by appointment only.

  1. Please contact me to set up an appointment. I may spend a few minutes with you discussing your particular concerns in our initial call.
  2. Prior to your first appointment, I ask that you download, complete, and bring the appropriate Health History Intake and other forms with you. This step saves us time.
  3. In some cases, you or I may need to contact your medical team prior to your appointment to ensure an appropriate plan of care.
  4. When you arrive we will review any changes in health and finalize any other paperwork.

I generally return calls within 24 to 48 hours. If you do not receive a call back from me in a reasonable amount of time, please call again. Occasionally calls are dropped.

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I already have a massage therapist. Can they provide oncology massage?

This is a very important question and I understand you may already be working with a therapist you trust. So it may seem unnecessary to find a new therapist as you manage your cancer care.

I encourage you to take time and learn more about your therapists’ background in oncology massage. Finding a therapist trained in oncology massage, or with specific techniques such as Manual Lymph Drainage is essential to your health and well-being.

This list (PDF) of questions and general statements in response may be helpful for you. These questions and responses are not intended as medical advice. They are intended to help you open a dialogue with your therapist. Your therapist may speak more specifically to your particular needs.

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Where can I find more information about oncology massage?

To simplify your search for more information about oncology & massage, I have listed a few of my favorite books and web sites.


  • Medicine Hands: Massage for People Living with Cancer; Gayle MacDonald MS, LMP; Findhorn Press, 1st Ed: 1999 and 2nd Ed: 2007.
  • Massage for the Hospital Patient and the Medically Frail Client, Gayle MacDonald, MS, LMP ; Lippincot, 2005.
  • Foundations of Manual Lymph Drainage: M. Foldi, R. Strobenreuther; Elsevier Mosby, English 3rd Ed: 2005.
  • A Primer on Lymphedema: Deborah G Kelly; Prentice Hall, 2002.
  • Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy: M. Dollinger, E. Rosenbau, M. Temero, S. Mulvhill; Andrews McMeel Publishing, 4th Ed: 2002.
  • Cancer Survival Guide: P. Teeley, P. Bashe; Broadway Books: 2005.

Web sites:

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How can I find a therapist in my area trained in Oncology Massage?

This is an important question. You may wish to explore any of the following options:

  • Ask for referrals from your medical team or patient support staff
  • Ask your friends who have had cancer
  • Visit the Society for Oncology Massage web site and select the the OMT Locator option from the navigation menu

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How do I view the PDF files?

To view the PDF files, you need to download and install Adobe Reader.

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The content of this web site is intended for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical assessment, advice or service.