Hands-on massage therapy

Physiotherapists use a number of massage techniques to treat various conditions that arise following a breast biopsy and a partial or full mastectomy. Different hands-on techniques are used to improve shoulder and neck mobility, muscle function, tissue mobility and health, as well as lymphatic drainage and circulation.

Scar tissue causes adherence to underlying structures. As a result the mobility of the neck, shoulder, rib cage and arm can become limited. Massage is used to prevent and reduce these restrictions. It also helps to decrease pain and increase the functioning of these parts.

Massage is used to decrease tension in muscles, thereby promoting relaxation. After a mastectomy the lymphatic system can become blocked – usually affecting the patient’s arm. Lymphoedema is the collection of lymph fluid in the connective tissue and this results in pain and limited movement. Massage assists with improving the drainage and increasing the circulation. This is known as lymphoedema massage.

Kinesio taping is often used by physiotherapists and has shown to be beneficial in the treatment of lymphoedema in the following ways:


The tape can be applied on the skin in a manner that causes a massage-like skin movement that directs lymph away from an affected area. When placed over areas of fibrosis, the lifting action and increased movement of skin also assists in  the softening of these tissues.


The motion of the tape, and its action on sensory receptors in the skin can improve muscle contraction. Deeper lymphatic vessel function is enhanced by the nearby pumping action of muscle contraction and relaxation.


The tape can be placed to help stabilise joints that have been affected by lymphoedema.


As the tape affects the muscles and skin, it also improves the ability of blood to flow in and out of the treated area. This improved circulation aids the healing process.


Swelling places pressure on sensory receptors in the skin causing pain, numbness or reduced sensitivity. When the excess fluid is removed the pressure decreases and the ability of these receptors to communicate with the brain is improved.

It is important that a physiotherapist performs these massage techniques, as well as the application of the kinesio tape. Physiotherapists are aware of the correct procedures and have the sought-after healing touch.

Written by Nicole Redman

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