Archive for March, 2009

Reproductive Conditions and Cancer

March 16, 2009

When I began studying massage therapy I was interested in working with two populations: pregnant women and cancer survivors. I took classes that related to working with both–pregnancy massage and lymphatic massage. While I was taught a lot of valuable information with regard to both topics, I definitely feel that I would need additional training and careful practice to really delve into these populations seriously. Dr. Johnson’s Massage Pathology class has taught me valuable information regarding cancer. I know better what skin abnormalities are worrisome, and more about a host of cancers than I knew before. I am still curious about working with cancer patients and survivors, but this course has taught me the need to a) work closely with a client’s medical doctor, and b) to seek further training in the protocols that have been developed for working with cancer patients and survivors. I am particularly interesting in further training in craniosacral work and lymphatic drainage. The craniosacral work seems particularly important due to the subtlety of the work, and the lack of direct tissue work on a large scale. For instance, if a client is undergoing radiation it seems that work that doesn’t require a lot of physical contact would be a plus. With regard to the lymphatic drainage, breast cancer is much more a non-taboo topic. It occurs to me that there is a large number of women exposed to the cancer and the possibility of having nodes surgically removed, and that women might tend to use massage therapy more often than men. This sounds like an opportunity to make a rewarding difference in people’s lives. As a man, I was encouraged to learn that lymphatic drainage performed on breast cancer survivors should be done in the non-affected area: essentially creating a vacuum effect that can pull the fluid from the affected area. I look forward to testing this theory both through further training and practice under the appropriate supervision.

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Reproductive Conditions

March 16, 2009

Ever since I started studying massage therapy I have been interested in working with pregnant women and their partners. I am drawn to the idea due to the ability to make a strong difference in a woman’s well-being at an important time for her. I include the partner because I believe that pregnancy, while physiologically happening in one partner’s body, is a two person endeavor. This has been true for my wife’s pregnany, and I wouldn’t want to imagine what it would have been like if I had not been as involved as I have been. The training that I received in pregnancy massage focused on helping the body to maintain an upright posture, loosening fascia around the belly, and reducing edema in the lower extremities. We focused on reducing tonicity in the head, neck and shoulders–including the posterior postural muscles, plus SCM, scales, platysma, pectoralis minor, latissimus dorsai, the teres muscles, rhomboids, etc. The purpose here was to keep the shoulder girdle loose and the head on top of the body instead of out in front. We also focused on the hips–encouraging piriformus to remain healthy knowing that as the belly grows it will be stressed. We also worked on moving fluid from the lower extremity–with lymphatic drainage techniques and elevation. Finally we were taught to do fascial loosening on the expanding abdomen–a gentle connection with semi-circular stretches. This would encourage the fascia to stretch, and give more room to the growing baby and the impacted internal organs. As an expectant father it’s been exciting to use these techniques for my wife, and the idea of sharing these techniques with other pregnant women is welcome. Having partners present for the activity is important–for them to understand that a man can be a caregiver, and who better to give care than them. As for the reproductive pathologies, I am glad to know the diseases to be aware of, and particularly glad that dealing with many of these is outside my scope of practice.

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Gastrointestinal pathologies

March 16, 2009

My anatomy and physiology teacher liked to talk about the benefits of visceral massage; sadly, he never went into much detail about what visceral massage was so we were left with a vague impression of manipulation of the viscera. What visceral is massage? I didn’t find a whole lot of information, but did get the idea that visceral massage is indeed the manipulation of the viscera to release adhesions, hypertonicity, and to correct displacements. As a new massage practitioner this all sounds terribly advanced to me; while I enjoy doing abdominal work and the effects that my clients have seen, the idea of doing deep work on the abdomen would require considerable study and significant increase in my palpation skills. This course has opened a window into the diseases of the visceral organs, and knowing these has helped me to realize why I like the abdominal massage–because there’s a lot going on in there–but has helped build a healthy respect for working very carefully.

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Cardiovascular diseases

March 16, 2009

For this post I wanted to look at the evidence-base for the role of massage therapy on cardiovascular disease. I found an article for free viewing in the Journal for Advanced Nursing Practice (http://www.nursingcenter.com/prodev/cearticleprint.asp?CE_ID=719639) The article described the evidence-base regarding the benefits of massage: 1. Reduced anxiety 2. Pain blocking 3. Psychological benefits 4. Parasympathetic system trigger 5. And therefore an enhancing of conventional medical interventions. The article proceeded to discuss how massage was used in one pilot project at a large hospital in the Midwest with postcardiac surgery patients. The authors describe the type of intervention these patients receive (including opening the chest cavity and positioning the body in challenging ways for extended periods of time during the surgery). It was posited that the treatment of the body might be related to the very common complaint of musculoskeletal pain in the head, neck, shoulders, and arms. Apparently 20 minute massage therapy sessions were provided to patients to great anecdotal success. The article didn’t discuss a statistical evaluation of the pilot project. I was encouraged by the integration of massage therapy in clinical practice. The more that I read about anatomy and physiology, pathology, and the areas where massage has been shown to be beneficial, the more I get the idea that massage is an indirect intervention. What I mean by an indirect intervention is that the purpose of massage therapy is not to cure an underlying dysfunction in the body–massage therapy is not going to unclog a blocked artery. What massage therapy can do is intervene on soft tissue where the condition of that soft tissue is in a negative state. For instance, the article talks about a patient who complained of major neck and shoulder pain with numbness in an arm and hand which was not controlled by the standard pain management protocol. The massage therapist identified tension in the neck and shoulder and spent 20 minutes working out the tension. The next day the patient reported greater overall mobility as well as mobility of the head, neck, shoulder and arm, less pain overall, and was discharged a day early. Did massage therapy heal this person? No, massage therapy relieved the tension that was inhibiting the body’s healing response which, in combination with the medical interventions that the patient was receiving, allowed the body to heal itself. I guess that makes the purpose of massage therapy to improve local and systemic circulation such that the body’s natural healing processes can be most effective.

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