Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissues in the body, particularly muscles, in order to promote relaxation and healing. There are many different massage techniques, and some practitioners may use or base their technique on different body therapies such as Shiatsu, Rolfing or physiotherapy, while others use a more intuitive approach. All branches of massage are effective, either in removing cramps, pain and tension from the muscles or in stimulating the lymph glands to eliminate toxins.

The massage session usually takes place at a health centre or at the home of the therapist, but in some circumstances the masseur will come to your home. Some practitioners work with the client lying on the floor but most will use a massage table. The therapist will work with oil on their hands, to facilitate the smooth, flowing movements of their hands over your skin. A variety of strokes are used, including kneading, rubbing, pummelling, circling and stroking, using fingertips, thumb or the whole hand.

Choosing a massage technique or practitioner is very much a subjective decision. It is worth experimenting with different types of bodywork until a preferred technique or practitioner is found. Some therapists employ more vigorous techniques than others. There is some concern that massage should not be employed in cancer because this may spread the tumour, although there is no evidence to back this up. I think it wise to avoid lymphatic drainage techniques in a cancer that is known to have spread through the lymphatic system, but massage that employs acupressure such as Shiatsu should be fine.

The use of aromatic essential oils in conjunction with massage brings together two forms of healing therapy, combining the benefits of massage with those of the oil, which acts directly on the bloodstream . Whichever type of massage you choose, the experience is pleasant because it feels nurturing, soothing and relaxing, and at the same time is often invigorating. Its benefits are often felt for hours or even days afterwards, especially when used as part of a programme for combating stress.