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News in Brief
A Moment of Silence for Dr. Stephen Press; New ACA President Elected; F4CP Offers New MemBership Benefit.
Filling the Gap: The Role of Alternative Practitioners in a Broken Health Care System
I have been asked many times what got me into alternative medicine. My answer is simple: I want to truly help and make a difference in people's health.
Constructing Our Reality: The Primary Channels and Perception, Part 1
My favorite topic of discussion within Chinese medicine is the acupuncture channel systems. First of all, each of us have them. They are part of our bodies; not something external to us. To learn about the acupuncture channels is to learn about ourselves.
Energy: For Life and For Death
Energy is a deep topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Qi is understood to underlie all of existence, animated or not, and the qi of the living is studied with special attention.
Roots in the Community, Branches Far Beyond
The Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine (JTS) was founded in 1998 by Sean Christian Marshall in Sugar Grove, North Carolina, a small community near Boone in the state's westernmost mountains.
Health and Wellness Partnership
Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Wellness Center at the LAC + USC Historic General Hospital recently joined forces to extend care to the residents of Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.
Transparency is Key at ASA First Annual Meeting
On March 4th and 5th the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) held a successful first annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Recording and Appropriate Billing of Timed Physical Medicine Services
There is a common misunderstanding about timed therapy services and although you do have some knowledge of timed service documentation, based on your comment on the 8-minute rule, your understanding is correct, but incomplete.
The Art of Listening
One of the most important clinical concepts for me was voiced by the legendary physician William Osler. "Listen to your patient, he/she is telling you the diagnosis." After treating literally thousands of patients, it can become almost second nature to quickly discover clues which reveal the underlying diagnosis.
The IME System: A Current Public Health Risk and Solutions That Are Working
I strongly believe in the independent medical examination (IME) system. There are far too many doctors in every profession who are not following E&M protocols and never claim MMI (maximum medical improvement) has occurred for their patients, which has caused financial stress for many private and public carriers.
How to Find and Fix TL Nerve Impingements
The thoracolumbar junction (TLJ) and the peripheral sensory nerves that exit from it are frequent, important and rarely recognized sources of lower back, pelvic and hip pain. Let's outline a clear exam protocol for diagnosing the problem.
Asking Patients the Right Questions
When was the last time you asked a patient a question? Maybe 30 seconds ago? But, are you asking the right questions to elicit valuable and useful information? As a healthcare provider, you've likely spent hundreds of hours learning to ask the right questions to gather critical health information from your patients.
Musculoskeletal Disorders Take Center Stage
Looking for the latest on the musculoskeletal pain epidemic and the increasing premium placed on preventive strategies including chiropractic? Check out The Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders on Americans – Opportunities for Action.
The Power of Eccentric Exercise: Hamstring Injury Prevention and Rehab
For almost 20 years, I've worked with professional athletes who make a living by running really fast. It goes without saying that hamstring injury (HSI) prevention and rehabilitation is a big part of what they expect from a sports chiropractor.
An Interview with Amanda Shayle
JW: Can you share with us some of your history and how you became an acupuncturist? What did you do prior to becoming an acupuncturist? Where did you go to school?
Vitamin D Fails to Help Knee OA? The Proper Perspective
The March 8, 2016 issue of JAMA includes a study about vitamin D supplementation for osteoarthritis of the knee. This is a really weird study.
NCCAOM Launches New Membership Organization
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) recently launched a new national membership organization, the NCCAOM Academy of Diplomates.
The Rest of the Patient Story
I've written previously about allowing a patient to tell you their story – about taking the time to listen and engage all the aspects of their case history, the injury in question, and the related issues.
Building Relationships and Referral Networks with Allopathic Practitioners
Dr. Doug, an orthopedist of 20 years, had heard stories from patients who tried acupuncture. While he was able to address many of their complaints effectively, some appeared to gain additional benefit when their care included TCM.
Business Lesson #1: Adapt or Else
My wife and I recently enjoyed an excellent meal at a restaurant recommended by some friends. We often have concerns about restaurant recommendations, as many have been disappointing.
Essentials of Assessment: The Squat
The squat is a simple, fast and functional tool to evaluate patient symmetry and function. As simple and easy as it is to implement, it can yield considerable amounts of valuable, clinically relevant information.
February, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 02
Learning From the Largest Study on Cancer and Massage
By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS
The body of research on cancer and massage is growing. One study often cited to support massage therapy programs for cancer patients was performed by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City.Authored by Barrie Cassileth and Andrew Vickers, it's titled "Massage Therapy for Symptom Control: Outcome Study at a Major Cancer Center," and is the largest published study on cancer and massage to date. MSKCC is not new to the massage arena. Therapists have provided Swedish massage, light-touch massage and foot massage since 1999, and both inpatients and outpatients receive the work.
The "Big Five" Cancer Symptoms
Health care for cancer patients focuses on what some people call "The Big Five" symptoms patients face: pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Medications can help somewhat, but these five symptoms still can cause much suffering along the cancer journey. Massage therapists have offered anecdotal reports of symptom relief in their clients. If their experiences turn out to be true for significant numbers of people, this indeed will be news.
So far, only small studies have suggested a link between massage and symptom relief, and it's too early to claim "proof." Cassileth and Vickers strengthen the suggested link with this observational study of their clinical offerings, documenting their patients' responses to massage in a systematic way.
In this study, symptom cards were distributed to patients. These cards asked them to rate their symptoms on a 0-10 scale at baseline (pre-massage) and post-massage, five to 15 minutes afterward. Three years' worth of patients led to a large sample size.
Cards were returned for several thousand massage sessions, and the study staff pared them down to only the initial sessions for 1,290 different patients. Because of when the cards were completed, they supplied data only on immediate effects on symptoms, if any. To see about sustained effects on symptom relief, investigators followed up with approximately one-quarter of the patients by phone, 24 to 48 hours after their massage session. A large amount of data was collected.
Control Group or No Control Group?
It's important to note the absence of a control group in this study. This was not a "randomized, controlled clinical trial (RCT)." In an RCT, patients in the study are randomized to either an intervention (massage) group or a non-intervention (control) group, the intervention is applied (or not, in the case of the control), and the same measurements are taken from both groups for comparison. A control group is a key feature of a study because, if treatment X appears to be effective for symptom Y, it's extremely important to know whether symptom Y would have improved without treatment X. Symptoms tend to come and go, and symptoms improve for all sorts of reasons. Thus, a control/comparison group is vital if you want to isolate any effects that are specific to massage.
In class, I often am asked, "Why did this group carry out such a large study without bothering to include a control group? Isn't it a lot of wasted work?" This is an important question. For the goals of the study, a control group wasn't necessary. One goal was to see whether existing clinical services seemed to be helping people. Another was to check feasibility: whether massage therapy could indeed be delivered at high volume in a major cancer center. Even though the massage program had been up and running and was theoretically feasible, because it already was happening, numbers like this make feasibility real. This observational self-study was the perfect design for these particular goals.
A controlled clinical trial of this size would be very costly. However, such an observational study lays a foundation for one, paving the way for funding. The authors mentioned their plans for an RCT in the paper, and a look at the MSKCC Web site shows that one currently is underway on massage at the end of life. Moreover, the data from this observational study support not only the researchers themselves, but also the rest of us in seeking funding and support for RCTs on cancer and massage. So, their efforts were in no way wasted.
What Did They Find?
The researchers found what you might expect − immediate, dramatic reductions in all five symptoms. Notably, in patients who initially scored a given symptom at 4 or more, the average improvements in that symptom ranged from 42.9 percent in fatigue to 59.9 percent in anxiety. Patients who had Swedish and light-touch massage had stronger responses than those who received foot massage, but there was little difference in the outcomes between Swedish and light-touch massage.
Those were the immediate, post-massage effects. Follow-up scores looking for sustained effects were obtained from inpatients two to five hours after treatment and from outpatients 24 to 48 hours later. Improvement in outpatients' symptoms persisted over that time period. In contrast, inpatient scores, which initially had improved, started to worsen in just a few hours after massage treatment. This is an interesting difference!
Although it's tempting to focus only on massage benefits, other data about the massage protocols and other factors also were interesting. For example, investigators found that Swedish massage and foot massage were more commonly administered than light-touch massage, and that foot massage was used more often for inpatients than outpatients. The latter may reflect practical issues in massage with inpatients − being able to easily reach the feet of a patient surrounded by equipment, no need for repositioning, and so on. Swedish massage and light-touch massage were balanced between in- and outpatients. Moreover, the average length of the massage session for an inpatient was just 20 minutes, while the average session for outpatients was 60 minutes in length. This is a wide range in dose, an important clinical factor. In my experience, massage therapists are good for some lively conversation about the needed, tolerated and best massage dose for any given symptoms!
These data provide rich opportunity for speculation. Why did the outpatients seem to do better than the inpatients? Is it a function of the difference in massage dose? Is it a function of the type of massage protocols or how ill the patients were in the first place? Is it harder to sustain the benefits of massage in a hospitalized patient in an acute health crisis than in an outpatient? These questions call for further study.
The investigators themselves stated, "Major, clinically relevant, immediate improvements in symptom scores were reported following massage therapy. Given the observational nature of this study, we cannot make conclusions about the cause of this effect." Their caution is well-advised. If you cite this study in support of massage therapy for this population, always mention it was an observational study, rather than a controlled trial that would establish clearer cause and effect. Use the word "suggest" rather than "prove." However, also note that this study offered clinical outcomes similar to smaller controlled trials in this population. See my summary of two such massage trials in the May 2006 and November 2006 issues of Massage Today.
Even without a control group, this study offers therapists, hospital administrators and health care providers a stronger foundation for massage. If you are building a case for a massage therapy program in your facility, note that MSKCC found it feasible for inpatients and outpatients at high volume. If your prospective client is nervous about receiving massage during cancer treatment or isn't sure it would help, a study like this suggests other people found it safe and helpful. This study gathers together 1,290 valuable, individual stories of massage into one place and offers them to us to scrutinize, learn from and appreciate. Studies such as this move the work forward. They inspire us by their example, move us to ask further questions and help us to envision a future when massage therapy is part of regular cancer care.
Author's Note: The article is indexed at www.pubmed.gov. Search the author to yield the abstract and ordering information, or request a reprint from the author in writing at MSKCC. Cassileth BA, Vickers, AJ. Massage therapy for symptom control: outcome study at a major cancer center. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2004;28(3):244-9. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Integrative Medicine. "Our Research." Available at www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/1990.cfm. Accessed 12-06.
Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.
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