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Massage Today
April, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 04

Feeling Is Believing

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

At the conclusion of my last article, I challenged readers to identify a specific muscle, based on several clues from one of my dissection cases. Were you able to figure it out?

The answer is the costocoracoideus.

To see a picture of it, visit www.kenthealth.com under the "What's New" section, and click on "Mystery Muscle." If you got it, congratulations!

Feeling Is Believing

Now, let's consider another unique set of circumstances.

I recently took an online survey and was interested to discover that of the five senses, 76 percent of men and 72 percent of women feel that vision is the most important. But while "seeing is believing" to many, Edgar Moon, a blind certified massage therapist from Philadelphia, believes that "touching is seeing and understanding." Edgar, who primarily is a kinesthetic learner, "sees" with his hands.

Edgar became a massage therapist after he lost his sight serving our country in Vietnam. A couple of years ago, he joined me in the dissection lab for a week of training. Following the experience, Edgar expressed both appreciation and excitement for his newfound knowledge, "Now I understand exactly what I am treating on my clients. This experience has been so enlightening and a dream come true."

The level of enthusiasm in the dissection lab truly is amazing. I've seen faces light up with excitement in anticipation of embarking on this incredible exploration of the human body. Yet, at the same time, each person is extremely respectful of the process. All of the participants honor these "silent teachers," since it is through their foresight and planning that we have been given this ultimate gift and learning experience. Additionally, we in the anatomy lab recognize that performing an outstanding dissection and then using that knowledge to benefit our clients is the most respectful way we can honor these exquisite souls.

While Edgar did not use a scalpel to perform the dissection, he did use his hands to palpate every layer, separate the fascial planes, and feel the fascia, muscles, nerves and organs. Additionally, Edgar and his dissection team continually palpated the same structures on 11 different cadavers to compare the shapes and sizes of each. Edgar maneuvered around the dissection lab with confidence. As he approached each cadaver, a team member would place his hands on a bony landmark so that he could identify his starting point. Working with Edgar in the lab reminded each of us how fortunate we are to have the gift of sight. We were all proud that we had the opportunity to "loan our eyes" to a fellow massage therapist so he could follow his passion.

In my last column, I discussed how most of us learn and experience life through the five senses: visual (sight), auditory (speech), kinesthetic (touch), olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste). While most of us are fortunate enough to have the full use of our senses, each person typically is more reliant on one or two of the senses; these are referred to as the dominant senses. Since the senses affect how we interpret and interact with the world on a daily basis, it is easy to understand how the dominant senses could guide us into a specific profession.

For example, someone whose dominant sense is taste probably would enjoy being a chef, a food taster or a wine connoisseur; a speech-dominant person might gravitate toward a profession in acting, music or politics; and a sight-dominant person might prefer a career as a graphic designer, architect or painter. So, it makes perfect sense that a touch-dominant person would lean toward a career in massage therapy. In fact, when massage therapists are in the process of learning a new technique or structure of the body, it often is necessary for them to see (visual) it, hear (auditory) about it, and, of course, use touch (kinesthetic) to feel or perform it.

It was beautiful to witness Edgar as he began making all of these connections in the lab. Occasionally, while palpating, he would say, "I see." I remember thinking how much more sensitive Edgar's hands are since they play such a dominant role in his life.

As you know, the largest organ in the body is the skin. It provides:

  • Protection for the body from injury, fluid loss (e.g., in minor burns), and invading organisms;
  • Heat regulation through sweat glands and blood vessels; and
  • Sensation (e.g., pain) by way of superficial nerves and their sensory endings.1

Additionally, it's common knowledge that one square-inch of skin contains about 65 hairs, 100 sebaceous glands, 650 sweat glands, 78 heat sensors, 13 cold sensors, 1,300 nerve endings that can record pain, 9,500 cells, 19 yards of nerves, 19,500 sensory cells and 165 pressure apparatuses for stimuli (touch). The fingertips are very sensitive, making them powerful tools for any massage therapist, particularly someone with an enhanced sense of touch, like Edgar.

But, how does the dissection experience help heighten one's sense of touch and subsequently make one a better massage therapist? Well, with or without the use of one's vision, palpating during dissection provides the therapist with a more thorough understanding of each individual structure, as well as how these structures interconnect to form the whole. A therapist who has received the gift of knowledge thanks to these special "silent" teachers can't help but function in the treatment room with a heightened appreciation and understanding of the human body. And developing these skills takes little more than a heartfelt desire to learn and a willingness to see with your hands what your eyes cannot. Just ask Edgar.

Reference

  1. Keith L. Moore and Anne M.R. Agur. Essential Clinical Anatomy, Second Edition. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2002.

Click here for more information about David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.

 

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