Supportive Care in Cancer

, 19:1473 | Cite as

Case report of a patient with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy treated with manual therapy (massage)

  • Joan Elizabeth CunninghamEmail author
  • Teresa Kelechi
  • Katherine Sterba
  • Nikki Barthelemy
  • Paul Falkowski
  • Steve H. Chin
Case Study



Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a common, miserable, potentially severe, and often dose-limiting side effect of several first and second-line anti-cancer agents with little in the way of effective, acceptable treatment. Although mechanisms of damage differ, manual therapy (therapeutic massage) has effectively reduced symptoms and improved quality of life in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.


Here, we describe application of manual therapy (techniques of effleurage and petrissage) to the extremities in a patient with grade 2 CIPN subsequent to prior treatment with docetaxel and cisplatin for stage III esophageal adenocarcinoma. Superficial cutaneous temperature was monitored using infrared thermistry as proxy for microvascular blood flow.


By the end of the course of manual therapy without any change in medications, CIPN symptoms were greatly reduced to grade 1, with corresponding improvement in quality of life. Improvements in superficial temperature were observed in fingers and toes.


Manual therapy was associated with almost complete resolution of the tingling and numbness and pain of CIPN in this patient. Concurrently increased superficial temperature suggests improvements in CIPN symptoms may have involved changes in blood circulation. To our knowledge, this is the first report of using manual therapy for amelioration of CIPN.


Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy Manual therapy Massage Taxane Platin 



Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy


Food and Drug Administration



We wish to thank Dr. Elizabeth Snoderly, DO, for her early encouragement of Mr. Falkowski's work using manual therapy to help patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. No funding was received for the work represented in this report.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no financial conflicts of interest pertaining to this report other than that one coauthor is the director/president of the non-profit organization Integrative Cancer Care. The authors also declare that they have full control of all primary data, and that they agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested. Institutions and corporations involved in the work which led to the creation of this report are the Medical University of South Carolina and the Integrative Cancer Care, Charleston, SC, USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan Elizabeth Cunningham
    • 1
    Email author
  • Teresa Kelechi
    • 2
  • Katherine Sterba
    • 1
  • Nikki Barthelemy
    • 3
  • Paul Falkowski
    • 3
  • Steve H. Chin
    • 4
  1. 1.Hollings Cancer Center, and Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, College of MedicineMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Nursing, College of NursingMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA
  3. 3.Integrative Cancer CareCharlestonUSA
  4. 4.Hollings Cancer Center, and Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Medicine, and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, College of MedicineMedical University of South CarolinaCharlestonUSA

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