Reflexology and massage therapy are two complementary therapies that have been used by some patients with a myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) to alleviate some of the side effects that may accompany living with a chronic illness; pain, fatigue, low mood, stress, circulatory problems etc.
Used for centuries, this is a system of treatment that involves kneading, tapping, pressing or stroking the soft tissues of the body in order to relax the patient.
Massage techniques range from soft/gentle to vigorous and brisk and there are different types including deep tissue massage, sports massage, aromatherapy massage, Swedish and Shiatsu.
Generally massage therapy for MPN patients may lift the mood and is a way for people to help themselves feel they can cope with stress, anxiety, pain or even headaches.
There is no scientific evidence that massage will help change the outcome of MPNs as a disease but it can be used in a complementary way to reduce some of the side effects or symptoms of MPNs.
Massage therapy should be undertaken only after consultation with your medical care team and special care should be taken if you have heart problems, suffer from arthritis, are very weak, have very low or high blood counts or have sensitive skin due to medication.
Some cancer centres and hospitals may offer massage therapy treatments as part of their care so do ask your nurse or doctor if this is an option or suitable for your particular circumstances. If it is not available and you want to investigate private sessions do make sure that you take time to find a reputable therapist. Check that they are insured and qualified and registered to practice. Different organisations include The General Council for Massage Therapy or the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
Reflexology is a therapy that applies pressure or massage to different areas of either the hands or feet; usually the feet. Thought to have been used by the Egyptians, this centuries old therapy is based on the idea that parts of the right and left side of the body corresponds with the left and right foot. The therapist looks to press or massage the feet or hands in a way that will stimulate a release of natural healing in a particular body part as well as being a way to assess the general state of health.
Reflexology may be considered when an MPN patient needs additional help with pain, reducing stress or to alleviate low moods/depression. It is also thought by some people that reflexology will help with digestive problems, arthritic pain, change in hormonal balances and reduce the nerve tingling and numbness (peripheral neuropathy) that might be experienced by some patients.
Please note that there is currently no scientific evidence that proves reflexology works in patients with MPNs but it is generally a popular complementary therapy in the general population of cancer patients.
MPN patients should always consult with their medical care team if considering reflexology as it is not always suitable if a patient has other medical issues. E.g diabetes, inflammation or blood clots in the leg veins, gout, thyroid problems or a very high or low platelet blood count, many of which are quite possible in MPN patients. Always tell the reflexologist about your MPN before embarking on complementary treatment.
As with massage therapy some cancer centres and hospitals may offer reflexology treatments as part of their treatment so do ask your nurse or doctor if this is an option or suitable for your particular circumstances. If it is not available and you want to investigate private sessions do make sure that you take time find a reputable reflexologist. There is no law that says a reflexologist belongs to a association or must have specific training but most do register with an organization that is part of the Reflexology Forum or the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).