By Morag Currin – Oncology Training International (OTI)

Watsu is a form of aquatic bodywork and the combination of warm/hot water, and with unconditional holding and treating the body as a whole, this creates a safe space for the person so they are able to access every level of their being. Watsu takes weight off the vertebrae so the client can be manipulated more easily and this helps to decrease muscle tension while at the same time promoting a deep state of relaxation. Watsu also appears to show increased mobility and flexibility and can help reduce pain and promote better sleep.
A treatment of Watsu for those recovering from breast cancer (and other cancers) is usually 45-60 minutes. If a client does not feel well, the treatment is shortened. It is recommended that they attend 2-3 x weekly for about six months. Water temperature is usually modified to 85 degrees F or approximately 29 degrees C. A good example of a customised treatment a breast cancer survivor – the focus would be to strengthening the chest, shoulder and back muscles. A typical class might include a 10-minute thermal warm-up that involves walking in waist- to chest-deep water and utilizing a variety of progressive hand/arm movements. Concentration is given to basic breathing throughout. Students will next work through a variety of stretches, jogging and/or walking within the pool, with a dedicated focus on the traumatized muscles. Stretching and cool-down include external and internal rotation, shoulder flexion and abduction, followed by lower body stretches. The classes end with a focus on centering and mindfulness, asking each participant to release the stresses of their day.

When exactly can this client start with Watsu? As soon as any wounds are healed over and there is no further risk of infection. Start slow with short sessions if the client has severe fatigue. We would still consider the following questions: Can they handle the warm water, the chlorine? Test the water – it may be different for every person and it sits on average of 35 degrees C.
A person diagnosed with cancer can incur post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Watsu can also help with mood disorders. People who have incurred surgery and have post-operative pain or limited range of motion – this provides great benefits as well. Limbs or areas of lymphedema may not be able to handle the heat of the water, so that could be an area of concern.

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