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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Functional Hip Impingement (Part 1)
Every time I sit down to write an article, I realize how much more there is to know about musculoskeletal pain. I also learn something new every time. (I want to give special thanks to Lucy Whyte Ferguson for assisting with this article.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
June, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 06
The Soft Touch
By Keith Eric Grant, PhD, NCTMB
In our technically oriented culture, we have become accustomed to relying on our instrument readouts and conscious reasoning. We can, in our wanderings, for example, routinely and accurately determine time and position from our communicating electronics. Vital signs of medical patients, once done periodically by a human, can now be continually taken by electronic sensors and monitored for changes by computers.
What we tend to forget is that our human bodies are covered with a network of tactile sensors numbering 6 million to 10 million in all,5 making us superb sensors in our own right. Equally forgotten is that our ability to integrate the ongoing stream of information from these sensors is beyond the capabilities of today's computers or of our conscious minds. Profound statements of our sensing and processing abilities come from a decade ago by dance/anatomy teachers Andrea Olsen and Caryn McHose8 and very recently by sensory scientist Martin Grunwald:5
"The somatosensory cortex of the cerebrum has a precise map representing sensory information from all parts of the body, and works in conjunction with the cerebellum of the brainstem to maintain a continuous, cumulative picture of the body's position in space. The cerebellum, in particular, is responsible for constant coordination and correction of posture, movement and muscle tone. Even more fascinating, it holds the image of where you just were, where you are now, and it projects where you will go next."8
"Our sense of touch also enables us to take the measure of our body's size and position. The parietal-cortex apparently combines millions of individual data points from the touch sensors in muscles, joints, tendons, and skin to create an internal picture of ourselves. Normally, people are very good at estimating how tall, heavy and broad they are, allowing them to duck sufficiently for a low doorway or turn sideways to slip through a narrow passageway."5
The subconscious "computational" processing that creates our body image from our sensors extends our responses to stimuli beyond direct reaction. The basis for meridian theory, for example, might lie as much in our processing of input as in our physical bodies. Grunwald and his group hypothesize that body image afflictions, such as anorexia nervosa, may lie partly within faulty integration of sensory information. Their research indicates that other touch-based (i.e., haptic) processing, such as drawing simple shapes from touch, may also be adversely affected by the underling dysfunction. Other paths of current research tie our sensory and neurological systems to our immune systems.9 The brain and immune system continuously signal each other, often along the same pathways, which may explain how sensory input and state of mind influences health.
Sensory research has also recently uncovered why being cuddled feels so good - human skin has a special network of nerves that stimulate a pleasurable response to stroking.10 Normal touch is transmitted to the brain through a network of fast-conducting nerves called myelinated fibers, which carry signals at 60 meters per second. But there is a second slow-conducting nerve network of unmyelinated fibers, called C-tactile (CT), the role of which was unknown. The CT network carries signals at just one meter per second. By examining the response of a woman who had lost the normal sense of touch, scientists were recently able to look at her responses to the C-tactile system. MRI scans of her brain revealed that brushing strokes activated insular region of the cerebral cortex associated with emotional response. The researchers concluded that the CT system may be important for emotional, hormonal and behavioral responses to tactile stimulation.
As sensory images, understanding anatomy via names and insertions is only one path, and perhaps not the optimal one. Olsen and McHose8 take the experiential path to learning about anatomy via touch and position, literally making use of sensory input rather than rote memorization. In her book, The Anatomy of Movement, Blandine Calais-Germain provides a dancer's dynamic view toward understanding muscles.2
The focus throughout the book is on anatomy not for its own sake as items to be memorized and recited, but in its functional relationship to the actual movements of the body in dance, exercise and other physical disciplines. I delight in teaching that a muscle, ever so gently activated against a resistance, suddenly takes on sharp form to our touch. The activated muscle, whether subscapularis or psoas, suddenly becomes "visible" to our searching fingers.
As sensory beings, we learn to understand the body by palpation - the soft touch of awareness and wonder.3 Our fingers and hands, via practice, learn to seek and find asymmetries and differences in range of motion and tissue texture.4 The benefits of practice don't come from mechanical practice of technique, but from performance with awareness of both the effort and of the actual results. The adjustment comes in first doing and then making a correction to our inner picture or body-sense and running through the process again. Practice should be done enough to solidify it yet stop before physical and mental fatigue undermines the efforts by decreasing attention, increasing response times, and recruiting less optimum patterns of muscle activation.
Ultimately, practice with attention takes one from inability, to perform a pattern of skilled actions, to slow conscious control of performance, to mixed conscious control of learning with use of already learned patterns, to unconscious performance in response to environmental stimuli and conscious wish. Learning of new movement and body usage patterns can temporarily disrupt similar existing patterns. It's as if the body experiences a short-term period of confusion about which pattern to use in a given situation. Teaching sports or deep tissue massage to existing practitioners of Swedish massage, for example, can result in feeling that well-known patterns feel a new uncertainness. The situation sorts itself out, resulting in both patterns being available for use. Research indicates that consolidation and integration of practice continues hours later during sleep.1
The greatest determinants of good work that I have seen are an attitude of humility, respect for the client to react individualistically rather than as the textbook predicted, and cumulative attention to sensory input and client responses. An initial sensory feeling of "groping in the dark" rather rapidly becomes knowledgeable palpation as we observe sensation, client response, and effects. Those who have learned from their clients and can organize what they have learned, have the potential to become teachers who can shorten the path for the attentive student.
Often the greatest learning comes not from what is written or recorded, but simply from watching a master worker move and interact with a client. Hours and facts memorized out of their context of use are the poorest training outcomes I've yet to find for the process of teaching others. That's something to sleep on, the approach with a soft touch.
Click here for previous articles by Keith Eric Grant, PhD, NCTMB.
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