Cancer patients, including those with mesothelioma, are constantly looking for ways to relieve the pain that accompanies their disease. Pain can be the most debilitating part of living with cancer. It often keeps patients in bed and prohibits them from spending time with their family. It’s caused not only by the disease itself but is also a side effect of treatments such as mesothelioma chemotherapy and mesothelioma radiation. A reduction in pain helps patients live a more normal life. Therefore, it’s sometimes necessary to seek out a variety of ways to address the pain.
What is Myofascial Therapy?
Also known as myofascial release, myofascial therapy has been used for the treatment of chronic pain associated with many different diseases and disorders including multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, sports injuries, or for patients who are those enduring post-surgical pain.
The work “myo” means “muscle” and the term “fascia” refers to the tissue that connects muscle to ligaments and bones. When the myofascial tissue is taut, damaged, or contracted, it pulls bones and tissues out of alignment, say advocates of this type of therapy. Therefore, pain is the result. When the alignment is restored, pain disappears or lessens. Some say this therapy also restores flexibility, though there is little scientific evidence that this is the case.
Nonetheless, it is, in the opinion of many, a viable alternative form of mesothelioma treatment for those who are seeking to relieve pain in a non-medicinal way. Some say it works well; others have not seen a measurable amount of relief after treatment though they note a feeling of well-being after the therapy.
Experiencing Myofascial Therapy
Not unlike chiropractic and massage, myofascial therapy/myofascial release involves stretching and manual compressions. Generally, there are two types of myofascial therapy: direct and indirect.
Quite simply, direct therapy involves direct manipulation of the fascia. The practitioner looks for the restricted fascia and using knuckles, elbows, or small tools stretches the fascia by applying force. The goal is to elongate the fascia and mobilize the adhesive tissues. The practitioner attempts to maneuver through the layers of fascia until the deep tissue is reached. Many therapists opt for this type of treatment and believe it is the most effective.
With indirect myofascial therapy, the goal is to allow the fascia to unwind itself without direct manipulation of deep tissue. Therapists who practice this kind of treatment believe in the body’s inherent ability for self correction. This technique originated in schools of osteopathy and is, hence, still used by many osteopaths. With indirect myofascial release, the practitioner will lightly contact the fascia with hands that are relaxed. A light pressure will be maintained for 3 to 5 minutes and once heat is felt, the pressure will be released.
Does it Work?
There have been a few studies done on myofascial therapy, but none that seem to largely support the notion that it will relieve chronic pain. Patients, however, report that – as with massage – both pain and stress are lessened after the therapy and for a short length of time after the treatment. One study has shown that when combined with the use of electrical current, myofascial release may be more effective. However, it is important to recognize that this complementary therapy – and most others – does not offer a mesothelioma cure but is meant as a palliative measure.
Anyone who decides to try myofascial therapy should be sure that the practitioner knows they are dealing with mesothelioma cancer so that manipulation does not cause any harm to the patient. If the cancer has spread to the bones, this type of therapy should not be considered.
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine
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