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Desert: A Metaphor from the Study of Genetics
In most of the human lives I know about, there are stretches of time which feel stagnant, or worse. We can feel adrift, or wounded and sidelined, and these times don't seem to carry much usefulness while they are unfolding.
Chinese Doctors Poke Holes in Australian Study
A recent Australian clinical trial, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2014 by Rana Hinman, et el., evaluating the effectiveness of both needle and laser acupuncture for chronic knee pain.
Integrative Medicine for the Underserved: A Seat at the Table
Numerous organizations have risen to the challenge of providing care to medically-underserved populations and here we feature one such group.
The Three Heater Official
This Official, belonging to the element Fire, is responsible for maintaining and regulating the heating system of the body, mind, and spirit. It is named for its function. The trunk is divided into three "burning spaces" or "jiaos."
News in Brief
Investigating the Cellular Impact of Mechanical Force; National Board Seats (Not-So) New Officers at Annual Meeting.
Marketing with a Microphone
When given an option, it stands to reason that people prefer to do business with those they know, like, and trust.
Treatment of PTSD: An Opportunity for the Practice of Integrated Medicine
PTSD is widespread across America today. Not only do many of our honored men and women in uniform bring it home with them from the war zones they have been active in, but it often follows any life-threatening event people go through when their lives have been in danger.
Creating Relationships at Southwest Symposium
The month of May brought many interesting activities. As I have said in many previous columns this year, this profession is moving in a very exciting direction. Make sure you are getting involved. If you're not, you just might get left behind.
Leg-Length Inequality and Pelvic Fixation: A New Approach to the Negative Derifield (Part 3)
A patient with sacroiliac fixation and dysfunction ordinarily demonstrates a noticeable leg-length inequality when placed in the prone position on the adjusting table.
The Source-Luo Point Combination, Part 2
The Da Cheng includes symptoms for the source-luo points that indicate when to use them for treatment. Yang defines the method as the guest-host (it is one of a variety of acupuncture point combinations called guest-host).
Sports Medicine 101: Surgery or No Surgery?
In the world of sports medicine, many careers are saved by surgeries that correct traumatic damage to the body. Muscle tears, ligament damage, fractures, spinal disc herniations, and joint instabilities are a few of the issues frequently addressed with surgical intervention.
I was sitting in a Pizza Hut in Peoria, Ill., with my friend Reggie, sometime in the spring of my senior year in college, when he started doodling on his paper placemat. In those days, the company had a picture of U.S. on the mats, showing all the locations of the "Huts" in the country.
NCCAOM Video Contest
The NCCAOM is excited to announce the launch of the second annual video contest "Because it Works!" 2015.
An International Life: An Interview with Mary Elizabeth Wakefield
I met Mary Elizabeth Wakefield during her class last summer in Seneca Falls, New York at the Finger Lakes School of Chinese Medicine.
Meet Cheyenne: Your Future Colleague
Allow me to introduce you to Cheyenne (Chey), the daughter of some of our family's closest friends. We attend and serve at the same church together, and have known each other for many years.
Q&A With the First VA Chiropractic Residents
As you may have read previously, a major step forward for the profession occurred in July 2014 when the Department of Veterans Affairs began piloting a chiropractic residency program at five locations.
Nomenclature and Classification of Lumbar Disc Pathology: Version 2.0
The Nomenclature and Classification of Lumbar Disc Pathology consensus, published in 2001 by the collaborative efforts of the North American Spine Society, the American Society of Spine Radiology and the American Society of Neuroradiology, has guided radiologists, clinicians and the public for more than a decade.
Should You Change an Athlete's Natural Running Form?
Once past the ankle, impact forces travel at about 200 mph into the knee. In addition to allowing the quad to absorb force, bending the knee (E) prevents the hip and pelvis from moving up and down too much (F), which is important for injury prevention and efficiency.
Key Changes and Updates to the 7th Edition CNT Manual
Acupuncture Today recently interviewed Jennifer Brett, ND, L.Ac. regarding the updates to the CNT manaul.
Going On-Site With Chiropractic Care
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has released a position paper highlighting the financial, clinical and patient-satisfaction benefits of providing chiropractic care at on-site corporate health clinics.
The Risks I Took
We all take risks when we choose this profession. For some, it is not knowing if you can make a living practicing TCM. For others, it is parental or cultural disapproval.
December, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 12
Learning and Unlearning
By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS
In oncology massage, we work with a diverse clientele, with wide-ranging clinical presentations. There are clients in survivorship, perhaps with lingering effects of cancer and cancer treatment in their bodies.There are clients in treatment, whose health can change from week to week, or hour to hour. There are clients at the end of life, whose body systems adapt gamely each day to shifting internal environments. And there are clients who are in the throes of diagnosis, in varying stages of health, navigating a barrage of information that we can only imagine, if we haven't been there ourselves.
In watching thousands of people with cancer and cancer histories, I am struck by how much information, and how many skills, patients learn along the way. They master medical information, often unfamiliar at first. They learn which people to bring into the loop, and whom to hold at bay. They learn how to care for their bodies, under "new normal" conditions. They discover how to filter information, and listen deeply to their hearts, their families, and their physicians.
Massage therapists learn, as well, alongside their clients with cancer and cancer histories. We learn how to listen better, and when to keep our beliefs or judgments about illness to ourselves. We learn to accompany someone along their path, following their lead, bearing witness, remaining present to the process that unfolds, however it unfolds.
Changing the Mechanics of Massage
We also learn and refine the mechanics of working with people in illness and treatment. We adapt many different massage elements, including our pressure, the movement of joints in the session, the client's position, our speeds and rhythms, and even the draping and lubricant we use. (MacDonald, 2007; Walton, 2006)
We adapt these and other things in response to myriad physical changes: bone metastasis, surgical incisions, medical devices, or vital organs functioning at less than ideal levels. We adjust massage to the risk of lymphedema, and to the reality of it. We accommodate symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, and pain. We work around skin lesions, and adapt to easily bruised tissues. In order to work well and safely in these conditions, we also have to unlearn some things we might have previously held as true. I can think of three beliefs that we've reexamined.
The Belief that Massage Spreads Cancer
The belief that massage could spread cancer has persisted in our field, and it is still taught in some training settings. The belief has kept our hands tied. But with the right interview questions and complete client answers, skillfully applied massage is not expected to spread cancer any more than normal movement or exercise would, and these activities are typically encouraged by physicians, nurses, and PTs in oncology. There are numerous sources of thought and reasoning to help massage therapists unlearn this belief. (Curties, 2000; MacDonald, 2007; Walton, 2006)
Because the belief has persisted for so long, it takes thought, discussion, and full understanding in order to educate others. Simply casting off the belief, without putting proper massage precautions in its place, leads to an empty, uncertain, and unsafe application of massage.
Letting the Client Direct the Session
There are other things to unlearn, as well. We may have to unlearn our tendency to always follow the client's lead in directing the session. Although respect and empowerment of each client is important, as is handling a client's body within his or her comfort zone, there are times that a 100 percent client-centered session is at odds with what we know to be safe. Gayle MacDonald, author of Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer, points out rightly that the oncology massage therapist may need to take a stronger leadership role in session planning, to avoid overstimulating a client in strong treatment, or injuring unstable tissue. (MacDonald, 2005)
This can be challenging, at moments, when a client wants the strong, vigorous massage that he or she had before cancer treatment. It can be hard to sell a gentler session, against protests that we are treating a client as though he or she is fragile. Yet our professional and ethical responsibilities mean that the client's safety trumps the client's preferences. In the best outcome, the therapist and client plan a massage session together: one that is safe, effective, and addresses the client's needs.
Intuition vs. Information
The role of intuition is another thing we examine closely, and question. For some of us, this means unlearning our reliance on intuition, alone. We may have been taught, "If you're not sure what to do, just follow your intuition, and everything will be okay."
In massage therapy, intuition is a highly prized decision-making tool. For good reasons, our intuitive skills are sacred. But intuition can be fallible. Not all of us have well-developed intuitive skills. Intuition may not be sending us clear signals every day, or we may not be interpreting them well. People tell me from experience that intuition may be "off" on days they've not eaten or slept well, or are under undue stress. Moreover, our own needs and fears, which may be easily provoked when working with clients who are seriously ill, can cloud our intuition and decision-making.
In the other extreme, our decisions are technical, based on information, alone. Intuition may be fallible, but information isn't always perfect, either. Information changes with the times, with the situation, and there are information gaps in our understanding of cancer. By working with people with cancer, we pledge to keep our information as current as possible. One of my favorite teachers taught me that the best combination of intuition and information amounts to wisdom.
Resources in Oncology Massage
For most of us, to unlearn and learn the important issues in oncology massage, we need live, hands-on training. In order to work well and safely, we need a classroom with the give and take of class discussion, opportunities to practice interviewing and massage planning, actual clients with cancer to practice with, and concrete cases to discuss. Others of us have the skills to educate ourselves: we can carefully study the literature, research practices in oncology, have access to the input of health care providers, and learn from our clients along the way.
All of us can turn to growing resources, like the Society for Oncology Massage (www.s4om.org), the newest edition of Medicine Hands by Gayle MacDonald, and the expanding body of research on massage and cancer. For convenience, I've indexed much of the literature on my Web site, at www.tracywalton.com.
The best massage decisions combine the sturdiest information available, professional experience, legwork, possible correspondence with a client's physician, and our own intuition. Sessions are planned in collaboration with the client, and designed to address the client's needs.
Learning and unlearning requires giving up old beliefs, and being open to new information and skills. This is a rich process, and sometimes a challenging one. On the way to wisdom, it's good to know that there are resources to support us.
Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.
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