1. What kind of lotion or oil should we use?
Massage lotion, oil or cream can be found at a local pharmacy, health food store or skin products supply. A natural and unscented product is best if available. Lotion or cream may need re-applying during your session since they are absorbed quickly. Oils provide more lasting lubrication but tend to require more cleanup.
2. What do I do about my fingernails?
Trimmed nails make massage easier. With longer nails you have to lift your fingers slightly to avoid scratching the recipient or catching on clothing and lifting can tire out your hands. If you keep your nails long, simple holding such as the “hand sandwich” may be easier and safer than gliding or kneading strokes.
3. How long should a session last?
Anywhere from three to twenty minutes or more. Three to five minutes can be surprisingly beneficial. Sometimes that may be all the recipient can easily accept or the caregiver can give. It may be just enough to help a person get to sleep or to relax in a doctor’s waitingroom. You can do up to twenty minutes or more as long as both people are comfortable and enjoying it.
4. How often should we have a session?
Many in the project use three or four brief sessions per week. Some even use several short sessions in a day to help a patient get through a difficult time. Others like one or two longer sessions each week. You and your partner can decide on a routine that works for you.
5. How many techniques should we use in a session?
A short session with just one technique can be very helpful. Some people get great benefit from a few minutes of just foot, hand or face massage. For longer sessions it’s good to mix techniques, but remember you don’t need to include everything at once. Talk together about how long you want a session to be and what techniques you’d like. Review the individual techniques in the manual and DVD often.
6. How many repetitions or how long, should a technique be used?
There is no strict guideline on this. The recipient may get tired of a technique after a minute or two or they may want more. The most important thing is communication. When either of you feels like resting or moving on to something else, tell your partner. Comfort and enjoyment of both people is important.
7. How fast should the strokes and movements be?
Movements should be slow and gentle. Remember the goal is comfort and relaxation and for that, a slow pace is good. Think of doing the strokes in “slow motion,” and try to feel your recipient’s body through your hands. Recipients should remind givers to slow down. Light touch with no movement can also be good.
8. How much pressure should we use?
Use only light pressure. Remember the goal is comfort and relaxation and nothing more. These can be achieved with very light touch or light pressure — like the amount you might use to rub on lotion. Givers sometimes assume stronger pressure is better, but the body of a person with cancer and its treatments may be more fragile and sensitive than normal, which is why we emphasize only light pressure. Recipients should speak up if the pressure is too much. See “Safety Precautions” in the manual and DVD.
9. What if the recipient wants deep or strong pressure?
Still use only light pressure — like the amount you might use to rub in lotion. A recipient may think stronger pressure will relieve pain. However, the body of person with cancer and its treatments may be more fragile and sensitive than normal, which is why we emphasize only light pressure. Comfort and relaxation help reduce pain without strong pressure. If you have further questions about pressure, see “Safety Precautions” in the manual and DVD and talk with your doctor.
10. How do we make sure both of us are comfortable?
Use lots of pillows, cushions and towels as props for the recipient. For the giver, sit, kneel or stand in a posture that is comfortable and doesn’t cause you to strain — to bend awkwardly or reach too far. People are often surprised at how much better they feel by just making small changes. See “Preparation” in the manual and the DVD.
11. Why does the giver need to be comfortable?
If the giver is in an awkward position or has to strain to reach the recipient’s body, there will be tension coming through the giver’s hands. Also, it is more difficult for the giver to be centered and focused on loving kindness toward the recipient.
Good massage always begins with the giver being comfortable. It should be a satisfying experience for both people, not just the recipient — otherwise the giver may not want to do it very often. See “Preparation” in the manual and the DVD.
12. What if the patient doesn’t want massage?
There are times when a patient may not be able to tolerate massage strokes or movement and the caregiver should not impose. Communication is key. If the patient is reluctant to say “no” for fear of hurting the giver’s feelings, unwanted massage may result. An alternative is simple light touch with no movement, the “hand sandwich” for pain, simply holding the head or even just holding hands. Sitting quietly with the patient without any touch can also be a welcome form of comfort.
13. How can the patient help the caregiver be more effective?
Demonstrate on the caregiver what you want — for example, the way of doing a stroke or the level of pressure. Give lots of feedback about what is good and what needs changing. If you have the strength and energy, give a massage to the caregiver as a form of support for him or her. Have compassion for the caregiver and remember that sometimes he or she may need a break.
14. What if my wrists or fingers ache after giving massage?
You may find that adjusting the angle of your wrists or moving the rest of your body eases your discomfort. Try lighter pressure or just light touch without pressure. Switch to the “hand sandwich,” holding with still, soft hands. All of these are comforting for the recipient and easier on your hands.