• Miechelle Hwang

Pressure in Oncology Massage


"Everyone deserves compassionate touch," writes Tracy Walton, researcher, educator, and specialist in massage therapy and cancer care. And because everyone deserves compassionate touch, people who are experiencing cancer treatment and recovery deserve compassionate touch that meets their specific medical needs. Tracy Walton has developed guidelines that are used in hospitals, massage schools, and clinics to help healthcare professionals meet the needs of patients all over the country.


One of the most common elements of massage that must be adapted for clients who have experienced cancer treatment is the level of pressure. Pressure restrictions are advised when massaging parts of the body with risk of lymphedema or deep vein thrombosis, in an area where the tissue is unstable, over a tumor site, or where there is risk of bone involvement. Pressure that is too strong could increase the likelihood of a client to develop side effects, create lasting pain, or impact the cancer treatment.


One tool massage therapists have to define safe levels of pressure in oncology massage is the Tracy Walton Pressure Scale, which Walton developed based on the work of Gayle MacDonald and Dawn Nelson. The Tracy Walton Pressure Scale goes from 1 (light lotioning) to 5 (deep pressure), and defines with words and pictures just how much pressure each level consists of. The oncology pressure scale also includes 0, which is a stationary weightless hold that is safe for all people to receive. Pressure 0 is simply comforting touch, and is appropriate for people with deep vein thrombosis, risk of blood clots, or neutropenia who are advised against other levels of massage pressure.


By using the Tracy Walton Pressure Scale and being attentive to the specific needs of clients, oncology massage therapists can provide compassionate touch that is tailored to a person's specific level of need and pressure tolerance. With this scale, massage therapists can work to make massage safe and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of their medical needs.

"Everyone deserves compassionate touch," writes Tracy Walton, researcher, educator, and specialist in massage therapy and cancer care. And because everyone deserves compassionate touch, people who are experiencing cancer treatment and recovery deserve compassionate touch that meets their specific medical needs. Tracy Walton has developed guidelines that are used in hospitals, massage schools, and clinics to help healthcare professionals meet the needs of patients all over the country.


One of the most common elements of massage that must be adapted for clients who have experienced cancer treatment is the level of pressure. Pressure restrictions are advised when massaging parts of the body with risk of lymphedema or deep vein thrombosis, in an area where the tissue is unstable, over a tumor site, or where there is risk of bone involvement. Pressure that is too strong could increase the likelihood of a client to develop side effects, create lasting pain, or impact the cancer treatment.


One tool massage therapists have to define safe levels of pressure in oncology massage is the Tracy Walton Pressure Scale, which Walton developed based on the work of Gayle MacDonald and Dawn Nelson. The Tracy Walton Pressure Scale goes from 1 (light lotioning) to 5 (deep pressure), and defines with words and pictures just how much pressure each level consists of. The oncology pressure scale also includes 0, which is a stationary weightless hold that is safe for all people to receive. Pressure 0 is simply comforting touch, and is appropriate for people with deep vein thrombosis, risk of blood clots, or neutropenia who are advised against other levels of massage pressure.


By using the Tracy Walton Pressure Scale and being attentive to the specific needs of clients, oncology massage therapists can provide compassionate touch that is tailored to a person's specific level of need and pressure tolerance. With this scale, massage therapists can work to make massage safe and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of their medical needs.


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