resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Professional Credentialing and Board Certification: An Ethical Faux Pas
Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care systems are coordinating care through accountable care organizations (ACOs) in order to reduce the cost of care and improve quality of care.
First Do No Harm?
There's no questioning the frightening nature of breast cancer, which strikes one in eight women in the U.S. – eclipsed only by skin cancer in terms of prevalence.
Reducing the Autogenic Inhibition Reflex: Making Weak Muscles Strong
The autogenic inhibition (AI) reflex is a sudden relaxation of a muscle in response to excess tension.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
Our Biggest Challenges to Compete in Wellness Care
In the first article in this four-article series [May 1 DC], I made the case that chiropractors should either embrace offering lifestyle wellness in their practices or face the possibility of losing their place in the wellness care marketplace.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
A Poor Choice for Pain Relief
Acetaminophen is the most popular pain reliever in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 27 billion annual doses as of 2009. With 100,000-plus hospital visits a year by users, it's also the most likely to be taken inappropriately.
ACA or ICA: Which Best Represents You?
Last June, I was honored to represent Texas ICA members as their representative assemblyman at the ICA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Rethinking Musculoskeletal Pain – A Public Health Perspective
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the world's oldest and largest association of its kind, founded more than 140 years ago and boasting over 25,000 members.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
We Get Letters & Email
A House Divided? (May 1 issue) provoked significant response from readers. Here are several of the surprisingly similar comments we received.
Giving Vets the Care They Deserve
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health care system in the United States.
Green Tea Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects
Publishing their results in the journal Nutrients in May 2014, researchers showed that drinking the equivalent of 2-4 cups of brewed green tea (or bottled tea) daily improved cognitive function or reduced the progression of cognitive dysfunction in elderly subjects.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
Spieth Thanks His Chiropractor After Historic Masters Win
Jordan Spieth didn't just capture the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide with his record-setting, wire-to-wire victory at the 79th Masters Tournament.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it 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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