resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Sleep, Less Sleep or No Sleep?
I had a dream I wasn't getting enough sleep. It was a very realistic dream, even though I was probably slightly awake and not really deep dreaming. Most likely I had been dozing, caught in that twilight of sleep and wakefulness.
Applying the Thin Skull Principle
The "thin skull" principle, also known as the "you take your victim as you find them" principle, is a legal principle that can be summed up by the following statement.
Will You Be an Amplifer or a Mute?
These times are changing, and changing quickly. There have been many challenges to this profession throughout the past few years. The challenge is to talk, then talk and talk some more about this medicine.
Turning a Blind Eye to History – and Reality
The American Medical Association is taking the Supreme Court's Feb. 25, 2015 decision exactly as it always does – by turning a blind eye to history, legal precedent and reality.
Term Limits: What's in a Word?
It was the French historian and philosopher Voltaire who once declared the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire.
Optimism = Compassion = Trust
A randomized clinical trial recently published online in JAMA Oncology examined how patients viewed their doctor based upon how the practitioner presented bad news to the patient.
A Well-Kept Secret: 5 Element Acupuncture, Part II
Supervising acupuncture interns at a TCM college, it has always struck me how funny it is to hear the clinic manager tell the patients that the Five Element clinic specializes in treating emotions, as if patients with physical pain have no emotions!
Low Back Pain in Professional Golf: A Common Muscular Relationship
Every sport creates its own unique demands on the body. Some sports require such a myriad of body positions that assessing pathology is often difficult and unpredictable.
An Excerpt from TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Jamie Wu. TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics was released in 2014 by People's Medical Publishing House.
A House Divided?
The American Chiropractic Association's House of Delegates voted on 30 resolutions at its annual business meeting in Washington D.C., but two in particular took immediate center stage due to their controversial nature.
Synergy Doesn't Happen in Silos: Acupuncture in Hospitals and Other Healthcare Settings
As acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine continue to intersect and integrate with biomedical approaches, the conversation about integration expands and becomes richer.
Talking to Patients About Lumbar Facet Denervation (Medial Branch Neurotomy)
Lumbar facet denervation, more appropriately termed medial branch neurotomy (MBN), is a procedure that may be considered when patients suffer from recalcitrant non-radicular axial back and/or leg pain.
Recreational Cannabis Use and TCM
Many people are drawn to cannabis for its effects physically, mentally and emotionally. Medically, cannabis has some legitimate uses, however the scope of this article is limited to the recreational use of cannabis.
TCM Congress in Rothenburg is Largest in Western World
In the medieval town of Rothenburg, deep set within the Bavarian countryside in Southern Germany, the TCM Kongress Rothenburg each year draws around 1.200 participants from more than 40 different countries to attend the biggest TCM conference in the Western world.
A View From the ER
The University of Western States has inked an innovative agreement with local nonprofit health system Legacy Health whereby UWS sports-medicine fellows can experience observational clinical rotations in emergency-room settings within the Legacy system.
Converting More Patients to Your Practice
In 2013 and 2014, the theme was "the money is in the list." This meant that if you had a big email list, you were really making some "cha-ching." Unfortunately, having thousands of emails doesn't equate to thousands of dollars in profit.
There Really is No Room for Sexism
Recently, Matteo* (a transgender male) approached me during a break in an advanced shiatsu class in Berlin where he was one of two men in a group of 20 women. "Pamela. Don't forget to remind the translator to include male endings."
The Way We Are Designed: A Conversation with Gil Hedley, PhD
I was first introduced to the work of Gil Hedley by Tom DiFerdinando. He gifted me Gil's DVD series.
The Dietary Supplement Research Dilemma
I do not care what the truth is, one way or another; I just want to know it. And when it comes to dietary supplements, the truth can be hard to find for a number of reasons.
Treating Beyond Pain
More often than not, when a patient presents to the office, it is for a pain complaint. Headache, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel... The pain is often the focus of the patient's mindset, and they don't often have any thought of what comes after the pain.
The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biopsychosocial and Ecopsychologica Medicine
Chinese medicine speaks of alignment between humans, heaven and earth. It is a complex view with a focus upon relationship. These are comprehensive ideas with no specific terms in contemporary medical practice.
May, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 05
Working with Clients Who Have Spinal Cord Injuries
By Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB, Massage Therapy Foundation President
In my last article I provided some information on multiple sclerosis - a topic that many readers had requested. I hope that information was helpful and provided some insight into fruitful ways to work with these clients.At the end of the article, I promised to devote my next column (this one) to working with clients who have spinal cord injuries - another frequently requested topic. Then I put out a request for those of you who work with that type of client to share what you do, what works, and what to avoid, so that we all might benefit from your experiences.
Guess how many responses I got? Goose egg. Zilch. Bupkis. To me, this means one of two things: either no one is doing any work at all with spinal cord injury survivors, or no one feels confident enough about what they're doing to share it with others. I know the first can't be true, since somewhere between 183 and 230 thousand people in this country currently live with permanent spinal cord injuries. Surely some of them receive massage!
After considerable research, I finally found a few therapists with experience in this area. In addition, I just finished being a support person for the 2002 Winter Sports Massage Team for the Paralympic Games, so I do have some things to share. I'll proceed on the premise that many of us do have some of these clients, but we feel that we're working in the dark. I'll do my best to shine a little light on this subject.
First, let's look at what exactly happens when the spinal cord is injured.
Spinal Cord Injury: What Happens?
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a situation in which some or all of the fibers in the spinal cord are damaged, usually by trauma, but occasionally from other problems such as tumors or bony growths in the spinal canal. They fall into one of three categories: concussions, in which tissue is jarred and irritated but not structurally damaged; incomplete injuries, in which only some of the neuron tracts in the spinal cord have been damaged; and complete injuries, in which all the ascending and descending tracts have been interrupted at a specific level or levels.
As long as at least part of the spinal cord is intact, some motor or sensory function may remain in the affected tissues. This factor will determine what kind of recovery a person can expect to achieve. Obviously, the higher the damage, the more of the body is affected. Injuries to the anterior part of the cord affect motor function, while damage to the posterior aspect affects the senses of touch, proprioception, and vibration. Damage to the lateral parts of the cord interrupts sensations of pain and temperature.
An injury that affects the lower abdomen and extremities, but leaves the chest and arms intact, is called paraplegia. An injury that impacts the body from the neck down is called tetraplegia or quadriplegia. Among the SCI patients alive today, quadriplegics slightly outnumber paraplegics.
A person with a newly injured spinal cord goes through a period called "spinal cord shock." During this time, blood pressure is dangerously low, the heart beats slowly, peripheral blood vessels dilate, and the patient is susceptible to hypothermia. A number of secondary reactions may occur in the CNS at this time, including excessive bleeding; edema; free radical activity; scar tissue formation; white blood cell attacks on healthy tissue; and demyelination of healthy cells. These secondary responses can interrupt function up to two full levels above the primary injury, but they can be controlled with medical intervention, so it is vital that the patient receive aggressive care during this window of opportunity. With a new spinal cord injury, the affected muscles may be either flaccid or hypotonic. When the inflammatory process begins to subside (and this can take days or weeks after the initial injury), the muscles supplied by damaged axons begin to tighten, and their reflexes become hyperreactive. Spasticity along with hyperreflexia is a hallmark of spinal cord injury. If muscles stay flaccid and reflexes are dull or nonexistent, the damage is probably to the nerve roots rather than to the spinal cord itself. Injuries to the low back often show this pattern, as the spinal canal is occupied by the cauda equina nerve root extensions from T12 down to the sacrum. Depending on the nature of the trauma, it is perfectly possible to sustain injury to both the spinal cord and the nerve roots simultaneously.
Spinal Cord Injury Complications
Spinal cord injuries can lead to many serious long-term complications, several of which have important implications for massage therapy. SCI patients invest a lot of time and energy in working to prevent, minimize, or recover from these secondary problems.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Options
New treatment options for SCI patients are being developed daily. Some SCI patients may have electrodes implanted in muscles that are controlled from an external computer. These implants can provide pinching and gripping capabilities for people who otherwise would not have the use of their hands. Surgical transfer of healthy tendons can also be helpful. For some people, the triceps muscle may be paralyzed, while the deltoid is not. Surgically extending the posterior deltoid tendon and attaching it to the olecranon can provide these people with the power it takes to use a wheelchair.
Treatment for SCI survivors is targeted at providing them with the skills to live as fully as possible. Physical and occupational therapists specialize in helping these patients gain the skills they need to function; mental/emotional therapists are also critical, especially for those who are adapting to their paralysis as a new way of life. Ultimately about 90% of all SCI patients are able to live independently with these new skills.
Spinal Cord Injuries and Massage
With all these complicated processes going on, and all these potentially dangerous problems that may develop, could it ever be appropriate for an SCI survivor to receive massage? Absolutely. In fact, the range of massage therapy modalities that can be successfully used with SCI patients is exactly the same as that for any other clients. As long as threatening complications like blood clots, pressure sores, and infections are not present, massage therapists can apply their skills with compassion and imagination to the great benefit of their clients.
Some bodyworkers specialize in energy and light-touch work with their SCI clients: this approach, which could include therapeutic touch, craniosacral therapy, and any number of other modalities, can be especially powerful in achieving "incorporation"- that weaving together of the whole body that many SCI patients lose.
Other approaches address the mechanical challenges of being confined to a wheelchair. The spasticity that SCI patients live with is a chronically progressive situation. This progress can be slowed or even halted with a carefully applied program of exercise and stretching-massage is certainly appropriate in this setting. Further, some of the spasticity and contractures that SCI patients experience seem to be a function of myofascial binding as much as loss of enervation. One therapist I spoke to described how exciting it was to work with an elderly patient's gnarled and claw-like hand, and see her gradually relax and be able to regain some control.
As SCI patients' muscle tone changes, they are likely to experience postural distortions that can be quite painful. Massage can help to limit this process and reduce the pain associated with it. As long as sensation is present so the client can give accurate feedback about how the bodywork feels, massage can be a powerful tool in keeping these changes at bay.
Finally, many SCI patients have to cope with chronic tendinitis and overuse syndromes in their hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. In these cases it's not only appropriate, but essential to receive bodywork that can help to restore function as quickly as possible.
Practical questions such as how to position clients on a table, or whether to use a table at all, can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. At this year's Paralympics, the 2002 Winter Sports Massage Team had hydraulic tables that could be raised and lowered to make getting in and out of a chair as easy as possible. This is a good investment for therapists who work with any clients who might have movement difficulties. Plan on using bolters extensively, and be sure to accommodate for urinary catheters and/or colostomy bags. Ultimately, the best service we can offer is simply to ask, "How can I make you most comfortable?"
I'd like to conclude this article with excerpts of a reflection written by Jan Fields, a member of the 2002 Winter Sports Massage Team, after he had worked with a Paralympic alpine skier with spina bifida:
So, readers, what's next? Give me some ideas of topics you'd like to see discussed in "Dealing with Pathologies: What's on Your Table?" Otherwise, I'll just make some up of my own!
Ruth Werner, LMT, NCTMB
Click here for previous articles by Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB, Massage Therapy Foundation President.
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