Rhythmical Massage Therapy for Cancer-Related Fatigue

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Last update: 07.09.2020

The introduction to Cancer Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) on this site (see https://www.anthromedics.org/PRA-0727-EN) describes how CFS manifests on all levels of the human organization. CFS is characterized as an inadequate or disordered intervention of the higher members of the fourfold human being (soul body and I-organization) in the physical body, occurring in conjunction with exhaustion in the etheric body (1). This is linked to regulatory disturbances in the central rhythmic system of the people affected (2).

Rhythmical massage therapy can provide important support by:

1. Stimulating the patient’s vital forces and regenerative upbuilding processes (3)
2. Stimulating the patient’s respiratory processes, including their wake-sleep rhythm (3)
3. Stimulating warmth generation

Therapeutic recommendations

1. Bring together and bring into flow

Patients with fatigue experience their body as being weak and heavy, because there is a weakening of their etheric body associated with buoyancy and lightness, which is not getting enough stimulation from their soul body. The person’s etheric forces, which are normally in a constant state of flux, appear come to a standstill in the clinical picture of fatigue.

However, treatment does not involve working with flowing qualities of touch and movement to restore flow. Rather, we require a rhythmic sequence of sucking, slightly pulsating qualities of touch and movement to stimulate the patient’s fluid organism.

  • In rhythmical massage therapy we primarily treat the arms to stimulate upbuilding, regenerating activity in the patient’s metabolism.

The soul body tends to envelop the arms from the outside but its connection with them is particularly loose in CFS. Our treatment draws in the soul body so that it can have an upbuilding effect in the body, similar to what happens during sleep (see https://www.anthromedics.org/PRA-0727-EN). “When we massage a person’s arms, this draws in the soul from the outside. As a result, the arms become much more instruments of will than they usually are, and this has a regulating effect on the body’s internal metabolism connected with the intestines and blood vessels. So, we work more on blood formation when we massage the arms and hands.” (4)

CAUTION: In areas where the integrity of the lymphatic system is interrupted, e.g. in lymph congestion after lymphonodectomy or due to tumors, we should administer arm and back treatment strictly according to the principles of lymphatic decongestion.

  • When treating people who are very weak, it is advisable to start by reviving the lower human being by “opening the lower portal”, which is done by loosening the rib cage in the diaphragm area and deepening the patient’s breathing in that area.
    Massage the abdomen, hips and thighs in a more locally invigorating way. This will enable the upbuilding stream from the metabolic area to have an invigorating effect in the upper human being. 
  • Another possibility is to administer a pentagram treatment according to Dr. Margarethe Hauschka (5), whereby the patient’s arms, legs and head and the etheric currents flowing between them are brought into harmonizing relationships with each other. 
  • The liver as the central organ of the patient’s metabolism and fluid organism should be included in every treatment by administering a rhythmical embrocation of the liver with Ferrum metallicum 0.4% WELEDA. 
  • Rhythmical embrocation of the spleen with Red Copper ointment WALA (also available as Kupfersalbe rot), can also be helpful, because the spleen has a special rhythm-bestowing function in relation to the body ‘s digestive processes (4). 
  • Rhythmical embrocation of the kidney with Red Copper ointment WALA (Kupfersalbe rot) has a supportive effect on generally reduced muscle tone due to weak kidney action, possibly intensified by rhythmical embrocation of the liver with Ferrum met. 0.4% ointment. 
  • Rhythmical embrocation of the abdomen with Red Copper ointment WALA (Kupfersalbe rot), mainly massaging the spleen area, or a copper belt around the lumbar-abdominal region can have a strengthening effect on weak digestive activity.

2. Facilitating rhythm and breathing, working with binding and releasing

The working of a person’s soul body in their life organization is mediated by their air organism, which forms the basis for all soul-related sensory processes. The soul body, which is active in the air organism, instills impulses into the flowing life organization, which we can best understand as inhalation and exhalation: during inhalation the soul body connects more deeply with the life organization; during exhalation it detaches more. This breathing process is disturbed in patients who have Cancer Fatigue Syndrome, which is also reflected in disturbances in the “greater breathing rhythm” of sleeping and waking.

Difficulty falling asleep

  • Administer warm, rhythmic arm-back treatments to overcome excessive wakefulness. Integrate light abdominal massage, the lower back and the hips into the treatment. 
  • Spleen massage has a balancing effect on excessive nocturnal consciousness (4). 
  • Administer solar plexus strokes or a rhythmical embrocation of the heart if the patient is fearful or anxious.

For difficulty sleeping through, with daytime tiredness

  • Use “incarnating”, very rhythmic work starting from the feet:The treatment begins with work on the person’s feet and calves; then gradually ascends with intensive treatment of the hips, sacrum and lower back, before including the entire back. The spleen and liver are treated alternately – or both together.
    In principle, rhythmical massage therapy has been shown to promote sleep. It is not unusual for patients to report an improvement in their sleep after the first massage treatments, even if no sleep disorder was reported at their initial consultation.

3. Mindfulness, devotion, enveloping qualities of touch

Cold body zones (often over the kidneys, loins, abdomen and hips), cold extremities, lack of drive, rigid thought processes, lack of initiative and joy, are expressions of a deeper warmth disorder in the patient’s physiology and soul, thus indicating that their I-organization is not sufficiently active in their organism.

Rhythmical massage therapy activates warmth in the organism by using sculpting and enveloping qualities of touch and movement. A lightly sucking quality of touch leads from the depths to the periphery, with an effect that is stimulating and possibly enlivening. Mindfulness and devotion in the quality of touch are of particular importance.

For cold lower extremities

  • Start by treating the patient’s back and sacrum, to ensure good warming of the area where the limbs are rooted.
  • Massage the abdomen deeply, but in a softly breathing way.
  • Rhythmical embrocation of the liver.

Once the warmth begins to flow downwards, gradually expand it:

  • Massage the lower back and the sacrum more and more intensively. 
  • Hip-thigh massage in descending rotations , with locally soft, lightly pulsating qualities of touch and movement. Continue with the same qualities along the calves, ending with a complete foot treatment. Always work with the thought in mind that you want to bring the warmth from above to below, and locally from the depths to the periphery. 
  • Always treat the liver and spleen as well.

In case of cold upper extremities

  • Treat the upper extremities similarly to the lower extremities. Here, too, we begin by treating the back, sacrum and hips. 
  • Patients report a very pleasant, soothing flow of warmth into the entire periphery of their body when receiving a pentagram rhythmical embrocation, whether it is the (selective) “nursing version” or the classic version developed by Dr. Margarethe Hauschka (5). 
  • Rhythmical embrocation of the liver with Ferrum metallicum 0.4% ointment WELEDA is also useful where there is a certain paralysis in the will. In cancer fatigue with lack of drive, the patient’s will is prevented from using “its” organ, the liver, because it lacks the mediating element of warmth (6).

Recommended oils

  • Hypericum 5% Oleum
  • Lavendula, oleum aethericum 10%
  • Mallow oil
  • Melissa oil
  • Prunus spinosa e floribus 5% Oleum
  • Rosmarinus, oleum aethericum 10%
  • Solum oil


  1. Kröz M, Zerm R, Brauer D, Debus M, Quetz M, Gutenbrunner C, Girke M. Das Cancer-Fatigue-Syndrom - Pathophysiologisches Verständnis und Therapie. Der Merkurstab 2009;62(4):326-329.
  2. Hildebrandt G. Zur Physiologie des rhythmischen Systems. Beiträge zu einer Erweiterung der Heilkunst nach geisteswissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen 1986;39(1):8-30.
  3. Wälchli C, Saltzwedel G, Bach-Meguid B, Eberhard J, Decker M, Simões-Wüst AP. Klinische Ergebnisse Rhythmischer Massage – Eine prospektive Kohorten-Studie mit ambulanten Patientinnen und Patienten in der Schweiz. Der Merkurstab 2017;70(4):287-297.
  4. Steiner R. Geisteswissenschaft und Medizin. Lecture of April 5, 1920. 8th, revised and expanded ed. Basel: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 2020. English translation: Steiner R. Introducing anthroposophical medicine. Great Barrington: Steiner Books; 2011.
  5. Hauschka M. Die Rhythmische Massage nach Dr. Ita Wegman. 6th ed. Bad Boll: Verlag Margarethe Hauschka Schule; 2005. English translation: Hauschka M. Rhythmical Massage as indicated by Ita Wegman. Spring Valley: Mercury Press; 1991.
  6. Cf. Fintelmann V. Krebssprechstunde: Ratgeber zum Umgang mit einer Zeitkrankheit. Stuttgart: Verlag Urachhaus; 1994.

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