After breast surgery or breast cancer treatments, your body will change. Our Registered Massage Therapists can help relieve your pain and symptoms.
What is massage therapy?
Massage therapy is the therapeutic manipulation of the soft tissues, which include muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, etc. It can aid in the recovery from soft tissue injuries and dysfunctions that occur from surgery, radiation, and the effects of chemotherapy, as well as day to day activities, repetitive motions, trauma, and other conditions.
The therapists at Breast Rehab focus on massage techniques that address the impacts of breast surgery and breast cancer treatment on the whole body.
Swedish massage techniques use a series of pressure and relaxation phases to increase blood flow, assist in emptying lymph vessels, and decrease muscle tension. Based on the assessment to determine your needs, the therapist will apply a combination of techniques to deal with the underlying cause of pain and promote soft tissue relaxation or strengthening.
Scar Tissue Massage
The mechanical pressure of massage techniques can help break down scar tissue, while stretching, frictions, cupping, and other techniques can help align the scar tissue with the healthy surrounding tissue. Scar tissue develops as a result of surgery incisions; it can also form where there is any type of soft tissue injury including muscle strains, ligament sprains, contusions, and various other forms of damage. When the body tries to repair itself, it patches the area with tissue that is denser and less elastic than the original tissue. It also doesn’t align with the existing tissue but instead forms a web-like patch. In order for the affected soft tissue to return to normal function, the excess scar tissue needs to be broken down and the rest aligned in the same orientation of the surrounding healthy tissue.
Breast Rehab therapists specialize in massage for breast scars, whether from lumpectomy or mastectomy, mammoplasty, or reconstruction. Scar tissue massage can make the scar less visible, release skin tension, and increase mobility of the affected area. You can read more in the section on scar management and skin care.
Massage therapy can also address fascial adhesions that form after various types of breast treatments. Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that surrounds each muscle cell, each muscle, groups of muscles, and sections of soft tissue. Its main role is to reduce friction between all the soft tissues of the body and create compartments. After any type of injury, trauma, or inflammation the layers of fascia can become stuck to one another limiting elasticity of the soft tissues and reducing range of motion of the joints in the area. Myofascial release techniques stretch the soft tissues until the adhesions release and movement is restored in the affected area.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Surgery for breast cancer that removes lymph nodes from under the arm and radiation to the area near those lymph nodes can result in the development of lymphedema. The pressure and relaxation phases of Swedish massage techniques affect the lymph vessels like a pump, pushing the flow of the lymph vessels in the direction of the blood stream. Other specialized manual lymphatic drainage techniques are based on the Vodder technique, in which a light pressure on the skin stretches the superficial lymph vessels to empty lymph fluid from that section by moving it in the direction of the next set of lymph nodes to be processed. In severe cases, or if left untreated, lymph vessels can collect together, causing the area to become thicker in a condition known as fibrosis. In this situation, deeper pressure is needed to soften the fibrotic tissue before manual lymphatic drainage can be used. See our section on lymphedema for more information on this condition.
Cupping therapy is based on an ancient medical practice of using of a small cup to form a vacuum. The resulting suction lifts the surface of the skin, causing blood vessels to expand to increase blood flow to the area. Cupping can relieve muscle tension and release scars that have adhered to the tissue underneath. Sometimes cups are left in place for short periods; sometimes they are moved along the skin to move the muscle fibers below the surface. Breast Rehab therapists may suggest the use of cupping in addition to other massage therapy techniques.
At Breast Rehab, massage is one of the therapies we offer to get you back to doing the things you love. Depending on your assessed needs, it may be offered in combination with other therapies.