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News in Brief
An Encouraging Sign at Palmer; NBCE Announces Retirement of Longtime Director of Testing.
Old TCM Sayings: Treat the Front to Treat the Back
Chinese medicine college was, and always will be, a memorable time. It was a time of massive personal and professional growth.
It might have been a miserable start to the day in the heart of downtown San Diego. A heavy rain had soaked the large homeless population congregating near the intersection of Third Avenue and Ash Street as they waited for a free breakfast to be served at the First Lutheran Church on the corner.
Help Your Parents Stay Engaged
As much as parents may wish it were so, children do not come with an instruction manual. There's no "how to" that can be followed and no two children are alike, so what works with one generally won't work with the next.
Cell Health (Part 2)
Dr. Barsten, your book is about restoring "cell vitality." Can you briefly define the term? Cell vitality is more than the mere absence of symptoms or pathology, but optimum structural, physiological and energetic health.
Unlevel Pelvis in the High-School Athlete: Exploring Causes and Effects
The unlevel pelvis is all too common in the high-school athlete and if not detected, will likely cause a lifetime of musculoskeletal issues. Any provider who doesn't look for this common finding is missing critical information.
The Top Seven Website Mistakes Clinics Make
The majority of acupuncture clinics finally have a website for their business. Having a website is crucial for being found online through Google, Facebook and review sites like Yelp.
Put the Social Back Into Social Media
Social media is more than a passing fad, it is definitely here to stay. Social media apps and channels of distribution may evolve, but the concept of social media is now big business and a part of all our lives.
Leaving Footprints on Capitol Hill: Tribute to Dr. Kenneth Luedtke (1930-2014)
It was with great sadness that I heard of the passing of Dr. Ken Luedtke.
Connecting the Dots
In 2002, I published a book on patient examination procedures that included information on the procedural coding of the recommended examinations. The book should have been published in 2000, but I had trouble finding a publisher. Why?
Case Histories from Bali: Treating Balinese Chidren with TCB and Shonishin
When I moved to the island of Bali in 2005, I offered my services in Bumi Sehat, which means Healthy Mother Earth, a free birthing center for poor and disadvantaged local women located in Ubud.
The Conscious Evolution of Healing, Part 2
The idea of transmission is very important in the Chinese medical classics. According to author Claude Larre, the ancient Chinese were highly interested in the connection between things. Nothing was looked at as an isolated entity.
The CDC came out with a report in March 2013 that suggests 1 in 50 children will be diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum – significantly higher than the 1 in 86 figure that came out in 2007. What does this mean moving forward, particularly for children?
Mind-Body in Motion
A central goal of low back pain treatment involves the correction of dysfunctional movement patterns believed to be responsible for spinal overload.
Finding Balance in the Clinic
This past December, I celebrated 11 years in practice. I seriously don't know where the time went. I feel beyond blessed and grateful to be practicing our profound and beautiful medicine and to be helping guide my patients restore a state of optimal health.
Are You Really a Healthy Eater?
I always giggle a little bit (to myself) when someone comes into my office and informs me that they are a healthy eater. What exactly does that mean? Does that mean they eat sugar in moderation? And what's that, exactly?
Reflections: The Art of Teaching Asian Medicine
Over the past three decades, my global workshops have been translated into German, Swiss German, French, Romansch, Spanish, Lithuanian and Xhosa. Time to offer you new teachers a few tips!
Let's Speak With One Voice in 2015
For the longest time, the chiropractic profession has attempted to achieve some form of unity. On a political level, this was characterized by an ultimately unsuccessful two-year merger effort between ACA and ICA leadership from 1986-1988.
It's Time to Create a Strong Acupuncture Footprint
Footprints in the sand. Footprints in the snow. Where do these footprints go? Some are big, some are small, but footprints are made by all.
Acupuncture and Homeopathy: Bioenergetic Brothers
Acupuncture and homeopathy share an important healing principle: bioenergetics. "Bio" means "life," so bioenergetics is literally "life energy."
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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