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Three Massage Envy locations in Michigan – including owned by the Woodhaven company – will soon be offering specialized massages for cancer patients.

Lauren Smith, owner of Massage Envy Woodhaven franchise, 19768 West Road, said she became interested in massage for oncology patients when cancer hit her family. She got the idea to host the specialty training at her location after reading Karen Armstrong, a massage professional with the Beaumont Health System, in a magazine.

“My sister is a stage three cancer survivor, and receiving therapeutic massage has helped relieve the side effects of radiation. For her, it was a lifeline, ”Smith said. “And then I saw in a magazine about Beaumont’s oncology massage program and that a spa in the west invited Karen to train.”

Smith began researching the Beaumont program and decided that training his therapists to work with cancer patients would be a win-win situation. She also said this new offering will help Massage Envy’s efforts to establish the brand as less of a spa experience and more of a “wellness clinic.”

Once Armstrong agreed to provide the training, Smith opened the courses to any Massage Envy employee who had been with the company for at least 120 days. She said about 60% of the therapists at the Woodhaven site have decided to sign up, and several therapists at the Massage Envy sites in Ann Arbor and Northville are also taking the training.

The first one-day session took place on March 2 and two more training sessions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. were scheduled for mid-March. Once massage therapists complete the course, they will be eligible to belong to the Society for Oncology Massage.

Jan Atcheson, chief therapist at Massage Envy Woodhaven, said she wanted training because she sees many people in Southeast Michigan with cancer and wanted to help them if they came in to inquire. on massage.

“It will be good for us to have the knowledge to benefit cancer patients,” she said. “I want them to know that massage is not contraindicated because touch is important for everyone. Touch has so many benefits from helping strengthen the immune system to helping us emotionally by reducing stress.

Gavin Francis, another massage therapist at the Woodhaven site, said he has a personal interest in massage for oncology patients.

“In part, I do the training to increase my skills. But my dad and my sister both had cancer, and I saw them take care of it, ”he said.

Francis said that after just a few hours of training, he had already learned about how different cancer treatments affect cancer patients in different ways.

“With my sister, the chemotherapy affected the skin on her feet and hands,” he said. “My father underwent radiation therapy, and its effects were more focused and less systemic. “

Armstrong, who is the manager of clinical massage for the Beaumont Health System, said she uses a program developed at Beaumont and teaches massage therapists across the country.

“Years ago, massage therapists were told they shouldn’t massage cancer patients, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said that an untrained massage therapist could cause damage by injuring sensitive skin or making a cancer patient nauseous, but those trained in cancer massage can deal with the side effects of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. .

“For example, we can focus on scar tissue and help a client increase their range of motion and relieve some of their pain,” Armstrong said.

She said she had also developed a protocol to help patients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, a condition in which nerve damage is caused by drug therapies used in cancer patients.

“I want to stress that massage can be safe all the way from diagnosis to survival or even end of life,” Armstrong said.

Massage Envy Woodhaven’s hours of operation and prices are available at For more information on oncology massage services, contact Massage Envy Woodhaven at 734-676-6500.

Freelance writer Sarah Rigg can be reached at [email protected]

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