resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Let the Patient Tell Their Story
Often when a patient presents with an injury, they want to tell their story. People by nature like to talk about themselves, particularly when they're worried about their health.
The Science Behind Happiness
Are you happy right now? Whether yes or no, there are a myriad of reasons why you feel that way. A whole academic discipline has developed to find out what causes or obstructs happiness, and how to amplify it.
MPA Media Wins Seven Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Acupuncture Today, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecendented seven publishing awards by the ASBPE, the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
Rethinking GMO: Less Panic, More Context
Some of you may have noticed that after writing parts 1 and 2 of “Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption” a while back [Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014 issues], part 3 never appeared.
Thoracolumbar Syndrome: The Great Mimic
The thoracolumbar junction is a common area of joint dysfunction. The most obvious cause is dysfunctional breathing or lack of diaphragmatic breathing. Treating this breathing problem will ultimately be the long-term cure for the syndrome.
A Healthy Dose of Failure is Vital to Your Success
As an acupuncturist I tend to see people after they have already suffered for years and "tried everything." They are so desperate for some relief that they want to know everything about how to get better, right now.
Medicalization and Mindfulness
The past several years have seen a veritable explosion of research on mindfulness. Research abstracts we've published in each issue of Health Insights Today under the heading "Mind-Body News" have increasingly reported on studies about mindfulness interventions.
When Big Pharma Meets Chinese Medicine
Earlier this year, Bayer made a media splash with their decision to buy the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co., a Chinese TCM manufacturer.
Thoughts to Live By
When speaking to your patients about their health make sure to ponder the following points and have them assess if they are making themselves even more sick by the thoughts they have about life. Are these some of the traits and thoughts that your patients might have?
Uncle Sam Needs You
Scrutiny into the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) continues to grow after efforts to reform the DVA by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, were deemed "a stunning period of dysfunction" by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The Spirit of the Point
After receiving a large amount of positive feedback on my San Zhen Protocols series, I have decided to focus this article on some relevant clinical aspects of acupuncture therapy prior to moving on to San Zhen Protocols III.
A Commonly Missed Spinal Fixation: The Upper Lumbar Spine (Part 1)
When we think of lower back pain, we tend to think in terms of the lower lumbar spine and the SI joint. These joints and their discs are obviously important. However, we tend to miss fixations that occur just above – in the upper lumbar spine. Three questions come to mind: 1) Why is the upper lumbar spine so important? 2) Why do we miss the fixations here? 3) How can we adjust them?
Improving Our Political Effectiveness
The November 2014 elections are right around the corner; members of Congress, governors and state legislators are all running. Now is a good time to talk frankly about our overall political involvement.
Help Secure Our Future by Sharing It
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) conducts one of the most comprehensive surveys of the U.S. chiropractic profession every 4-5 years.
Healing Community Trauma in Israel and Palestine
It's the beginning of August and Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after a month of brutal fighting. In the last four weeks, 1,830 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
A Glimpse Into China's Top Brain Hospital
The sounds of the city pass through the open window are overwhelming the microphone - car horns, construction machinery - and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
History of Animal Acupuncture: Part II
In Part I of this article, I had gone back to 1969 and tried to describe the atmosphere and events of that year that engulfed many of the younger generation, some who were all the core members of the National Acupuncture Association.
If You Get a Request for Records, Respond!
In our previous two articles, we discussed two of the main reasons for denial when chiropractic records are reviewed by Medicare contractors.
The Truth About Herbs
I appreciate the effort and research put into the article written in the June issue of Acupuncture Today regarding pesticides and Chinese herbs.
The Problem With Prolonged Sitting
We need to constantly talk to our patients about spending less time sitting and about what can go wrong with poor sitting postures. The fact is we sit too long in repetitive malpositions.
Get Ready For AOM Day
This year, AOM Day 2014 falls on Friday, (October 24th). This is a great opportunity to make your AOM Day celebration or event even bigger by extending it throughout the weekend!
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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