Scalp Massage After Cancer: A Soothing Path to Recovery

One of the major side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. Such cancer treatments including radiation, can be taxing both physically and mentally. It is already stressful enough having to deal with cancer and the recovery process but to have hair loss can impact one’s mental health and sense of wellbeing. Scalp massages feel like the most immediate remedy as massages in general are therapeutic. However, before you proceed into getting a regular scalp massage there are important things you will need to know. 

Why Get A Scalp Massage?

If you are still unsure why scalp massages can be good for you, then here are some benefits you can get from these therapeutic massages:

  1. Stimulating Hair Growth: Post-chemotherapy hair regrowth can be encouraged by scalp massage, which increases blood flow and nourishes hair follicles.
  2. Relieving Stress and Anxiety: The soothing effect of a gentle scalp massage can significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels, common in cancer survivors.
  3. Improving Scalp Health: Scalp massage helps in exfoliating the skin and removing dead cells, which is beneficial for maintaining a healthy scalp.

Can I Already Start Massaging My Head After Chemotherapy?

Anything that involves adding heavy pressure on your body after chemo should be carefully considered together with your healthcare provider. You will want to know the do’s and don’t so you will not exacerbate any existing problem in your body considering you will be in an immunocompromised state (where your immune system is weak). 

  1. Consulting with Healthcare Providers: Before starting scalp massage therapy, it’s crucial to consult with oncologists or dermatologists, especially if the skin is sensitive or there are open wounds.
  2. Hygiene and Cleanliness: Ensuring that the person performing the massage has clean hands and uses hygienic tools to avoid any infection. This is often forgotten in general situations but when dealing with cancer treatment patients, extra precaution is important for prevention. An immunocompromised state means an easy opportunity for bacteria for infection. 

How to Get Started With Scalp Massage Therapy?

Approaching the therapy is more effective with a gentle mindset while keeping things simple. Do not overthink the tools and accessories for the session. Instead, look for things that work for you and your body. 

  1. Gentle Touch: Post-cancer, the scalp can be sensitive, so a light touch is essential. Light strokes following a regular pattern that is symmetrical (meaning covering both sides of the scalp equally). 
  2. Using Essential Oils: Certain oils like lavender and peppermint can enhance the relaxing effect but should be used cautiously and preferably after consulting with a healthcare provider. This is also in itself a form of aromatherapy which actually is quite effective for some individuals. But remember that essential oils are NOT guaranteed forms of treatments, they are holistic options to facilitate the therapy.  Even if the oils are considered natural, be sure to double check the label so you are not applying anything that you are allergic to. There may be nut oils that can trigger a severe allergic reaction. 
  3. Frequency and Duration: Short, frequent sessions are recommended over longer, intense massages. However, don’t overdo the frequency in the sense that you get several sessions throughout the day. Schedule them accordingly and pace your sessions depending on how comfortable you feel about it. 

I Have SOME Hair, Should I Still Do a Scalp Massage?

If you’re just recently done with chemotherapy, there is a possibility that you may have some hair left and very often they are finer than your usual strands. You may want to hold off from getting a massage for now. It is not a proven fact that blood flow improves for hair growth as a result of scalp massage. It is however possible that you can strain your scalp by applying unnecessary force on it early after your chemo so you will want to avoid that. Your physician will be the best person to tell you when you can start doing scalp massage.

You might also need to be careful with the choice for shampoos and conditioners as your scalp will be extra sensitive in the early stages of recovery. Milder hair care products are recommended. 

Emotional and Psychological Impact

Scalp massage not only benefits physical health but also aids in emotional recovery. It can be a form of self-care and empowerment for cancer survivors, helping them reconnect with their bodies after a period of intense medical treatments. Dealing with any form of loss (including hair loss) has been effectively remedied through a therapeutic massage. 

Scalp massage offers a non-invasive, soothing, and beneficial therapy for individuals recovering from cancer. By promoting physical and emotional healing, it stands as a testament to the power of gentle, compassionate care in the journey of recovery.

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