resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
An Introduction to Evidence-Based Clinical Practice - Again
One of your patients is in for treatment and catches you off guard by asking you a question about a news article she recently read. It seems that a new intervention for back pain was found to reduce the rate of serious side effects by 50 percent.
Peer Points: Spreading The Word
Pedram Shojai describes his venture into Traditional Chinese Medicine as a journey led by various "mystical experiences." Shojai decided to change the course of his career when he looked deeper into the basics of TCM.
Qigong to Empower Our Youth
Qigong is an ancient form of exercise and meditation used to promote longevity and health. This practice has traditionally been used by adults to balance the body through mindfulness, focused breathing and gentle movements.
Embracing the Light
Four years, ago I was diagnosed with a labral tear in my hip that was excruciating and "required surgery" according to an orthopedic surgeon. I tried everything and although the symptoms had mostly abated, I had to give up Yoga practice and everything that could exacerbate the tear.
Ask and You May Receive
A friend of my mother has had a problem with her ears for almost 20 years. Whenever the wind blows, it sends shooting pain through her jaw. She has seen any number of medical specialists over that time, but with no relief.
Increased Breast Cancer Risk: Another Implication of High Cholesterol
In addition to being a known risk factor for heart and cardiovascular disease, recent studies have highlighted the link between high cholesterol and increased risk of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second most common malignancy in women after skin cancer.
Gallop Confidently Into The New Year
Happy New Year! As you may know, this is the year of the Wooden Horse. I received a wonderful gift for Christmas. It is a beautiful glass sculpture of a horse, by Luili Gong Fong, a Chinese artist.
Using Facial and Scalp Acupuncture To Treat Neuromuscular Facial Conditions
As a practitioner and instructor of facial rejuvenation acupuncture I have gotten many calls over the past 10 years from individuals seeking help for various conditions affecting the facial muscles, nerves, and overall function of the face.
We Get Letters & E-Mail
Let's Restore Integrity to Health Care – Starting With Us; MDs Offer More – So Can We.
Gaining an Independent Occupational Code with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
One of the most important national activities currently taking place in relation to the development of the field of AOM profession is the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) revision of the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system.
The Many Faces of Cervical Compression
When evaluating the neck, there are any number of orthopedic tests to be considered.
News in Brief
Parker Announces Executive Director of Parker Professional; Athletic TIPS Program Getting Financial Support; ANJC Award Recipients Named.
Putting Public Health Into Action: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
The Chiropractic Health Care section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) met at the 141st APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Boston late last year, and it was another triumph for chiropractic and its public health advocates.
Why Stretching Doesn't Work
Like most chiropractors, a good part of my day is spent working with sedentary office workers who spend eight to 12 hours a day glued to a desk chair in front of a computer.
Climbing the Ladder of Opportunity (Part 1)
President Obama spoke of building "ladders of opportunity" in his State of the Union and Inauguration addresses.
New Knee, New Pain (Part 2)
The patient presented to the chiropractic clinic with symptoms of genu varum and pain on the medial aspect of the tibiofemoral joint.
Common Disorders of the Temporomandibular Joint
The evaluation and management of craniofacial pain is a complex endeavor, which often encompasses the presence of temporomandibular joint disorders.
Betraying Patients and the Profession
Imagine flying from New York to Paris on a jumbo 747. Your thoughts are on your vacation and experiencing the City of Lights. Midway over the Atlantic Ocean, you overhear the flight attendants talking in muffled voices.
The Urinary Bladder Official
The Bladder Official is known as the Official Who Controls the Storage of Water. In Western medical terms, this organ collects the urine excreted by the kidneys.
Acupuncture Ambassadors: A Chat with Leader Anthony M. Giovanniello, MSAc,LAc
When you first meet Anthony Giovanniello, you realize he's a humble practitioner, yet is bursting with a type of dedication that you can't help but be overwhelmingly inspired by.
Preserving the Natural Resources and Culture of Chinese Herbal Medicine
As the world experiences unprecedented population growth and ever-increasing ecological pressures, the topic of preserving Chinese medicine's natural resources has attracted steadily increasing attention from practitioners.
Look, Listen and Learn to Code
Study of the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Evaluation and Management (E&M) coding system can leave a doctor of chiropractic a bit confused. The description of the five new-patient and five established-patient examination codes takes up several pages in most coding books. The degree of detail and charts used to describe the codes can be overwhelming.
The Deficiency Myth
If you went to the same kind of medical school I did and took the same kind of licensing exam I took, you were trained to seek out and expect to find primary deficiencies here in the U.S.
An Alternate Method For Choosing The Right Formula For Your Patients
A constant question for us in the clinic is when to make adjustments and when to stay the course. A patient comes in and says, "Things are the same as last week."
October, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 10
Searching for Simple Rules in Massage and Cancer Care
By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS
In a Facebook post, a massage therapist requested quick advice for working with a client with cancer. On Facebook, of course, everything is quick.Almost immediately, he was bombarded with massage recommendations, safety protocols, references to books and trainings and encouragement to get a note from the client's doctor before beginning massage therapy. Opinions were all over the place and some didn't agree, but most were strongly held.
There are many safety protocols in massage for people with cancer, depending on the approach, and some of them may seem strict and even intimidating. They may even call to mind an old-school style teacher with a stern face and pointer in hand, barking a lot of, "No!" and "Never!"
And it's just as tempting to condense the protocols into a "Ten Commandments" format, a simple list to keep everyone out of trouble, without having to think much more about it.
More Than One Disease
But real oncology massage practice is not as simple as a quick list and here is why: the word "cancer" represents more than 200 different diseases. Even "breast cancer" is not a single condition but is classified into several different types. Drilling it down even further, two clients with the same type of primary breast cancer can present very differently, depending on the extent of the disease, reactions to treatment and other factors.
With so many ways our oncology clients can present, a list of "10 Things to Remember for Massage for a Client with Cancer" would not begin to capture them all. This is disappointing for those of us who've come to expect our advice in neat 5- or 10-point lists, packaged and propagated on social media.
Moreover, many of us learned and practice massage contraindications based on a client's diagnosis. Massage is contraindicated for X or Y condition. Unfortunately, this approach has never been adequate for any condition. But it particularly backfired in the case of cancer, where we had a single, flat-out, send-them-home massage contraindication that endured for decades. That one never worked well for clients or therapists. All it did was keep them apart.
Things have improved since then, with plenty of literature and training on oncology massage, a growing cohort of oncology massage therapists and even a professional organization, the Society for Oncology Massage (www.s4om.org). Thanks to the Society, there are standards of practice and even standards of oncology massage education with a fleet of recognized instructors around the globe. Some massage schools, as well, have made improvements in instruction, with careful attention to this population.
But in some places, the thinking hasn't evolved much at all. In many circles, "Send them home," has been replaced with, "Work lightly and you should be fine." This single approach is hard to justify for 200 different conditions representing thousands of different client presentations. Unfortunately, a blanket contraindication is not any improvement over a blanket contraindication. Still, we cling to rules like this. Sometimes too tightly. We strive to follow them to the letter because, if we do this, we will be doing everything "right" and the outcome will be positive. Or will it?
Beware the Blanket
Take all the many different types of cancer alongside all the different types of PEOPLE in the world – age, gender, level of activity, health history, ability to bounce back from illness, responses to cancer treatment and the thousands of other factors that make up who they are – and there just isn't a blanket rule big enough to cover it all. Nor should there be.
At a recent oncology massage practice clinic, we had two clients with similar-sounding diagnoses. Both had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the past four years, had received similar treatments and were about the same age. On paper, they could have been twins, except for their answers to this question: "What kind of activities are you able to participate in?" "Client A" wrote "kayaking and yoga." "Client B" wrote "babysitting grandchildren." Without making assumptions, this was our first hint that one might be more active than the other.
On the day of the clinic, "Client A" sailed into the treatment room, looking robust and buoyant with energy. She greeted everyone with clear eyes and shook hands vigorously. "Client B" was much more careful with her steps, stopping for frequent rests on the way up the stairs, her gait slower than her "twin-on-paper." The difference between the two was immediately obvious.
Different Presentation, Different Massage
"Client A" needed some adjustments in massage – notably in stroke direction, placement and pressure over the arm and trunk compromised by missing lymph nodes. With lymphedema risk, she had to receive thoughtful work in that area, as described in Gayle MacDonald's epic text, Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer.
But outside these careful measures, "Client A" could take slightly stronger work in places, and that's what she received that day. Afterward, she was relaxed, glowing and effusive about the massage therapist's skills.
"Client B" needed the gentlest massage – light pressure, slow speed, even rhythms, gradual transitions and a host of other adjustments to the information in her history. Also at risk for lymphedema, she received similar work in the at-risk area. After such a gentle session, she looked blissfully relaxed. A stronger session could easily have wiped her out. Instead, she seemed to float out the door as slowly as she'd entered it.
After thoughtful interviews and sound clinical reasoning, each client received an individualized session. But had we practiced with a "go lightly and you should be fine" mentality, Client A and Client B would have received identical sessions. Client A would have received the massage meant for Client B, with the possibility of a much less satisfying experience.
This has serious consequences, because without customized care, we can lose clients. Why? Because they can feel as if they are not being heard or being seen for who they are beyond the "cancer" label. We want to stay far away from the possibility of causing injury to our clients with cancer, of course. Our hearts are in the right place. But if we are TOO careful, we can be seen as being out of touch with what our client really needs and what they are capable of safely receiving.
Some of those harder-and-faster "rules" are easy and there is comfort in that ease. But sometimes, in our quest to compartmentalize and label and follow rules X, Y and Z, the client themselves – how they present, what they want, who they ARE – gets pushed aside. When our client comes and sits down in our treatment room for the first time, they deserve more than an imaginary "cancer" stamp on their forehead.
A Place for Protocols
There is a time and place, certainly, for sticking closely to protocols that we have been taught so that we can deliver a safe massage. I'm a fan of protocols as a place to start.
But I also like principles – general guidelines to use in different scenarios with thought as to how they are applied. These wear better than rigid, inflexible rules. In my book, Medical Conditions and Massage Therapy, I offer principles to follow. One is the Unstable Tissue Principle, which states, "If a tissue is unstable, do not challenge it with too much pressure or joint movement in the area." Tissue can be unstable for many different reasons, but in the "twin clients' case," lymph node removal put them both at risk of lymphedema. (A carefully structured, gentle approach was necessary and it's impossible to describe it fully in a sentence or two.)
There, the clients' similarities ended. The Activity and Energy Principle states, "A client who enjoys regular, moderate physical activity or a good overall energy level is better able to tolerate strong massage than one whose activity or energy level is low." Client A could take more. Not lots more, because of some lifelong changes that can be caused by cancer treatment. But more.
Yet, by themselves, even principles are not enough to go on without good thought, good interviewing and solid hands-on skills for this population and other medically complex scenarios. Neither of the principles above captures the full range of clinical possibilities in people with cancer or cancer histories. That's the point.
We have to step back from the name of the disease, from the so-called "rules," and even from the friendlier "principles." Zoom out and see how the condition presents in this one person, this one individual so different from anyone else. This person living this person's life, not someone else's life. Then, a client receives the massage for the client; not the massage meant for someone else.
This is what we figure into our interview and hands-on work. Instead of one-dimensional, black-and-white rules for massage contraindications, critical thinking, clinical reasoning and interview skills deserve emphasis in massage education and clinical practice.
Some massage therapists can figure out what is needed by reading, self-teaching or prior experience with medically complex populations. But most need training in these skills. Training is just as important for learning what we can do, as what we should not do. That's where the Society for Oncology Massage comes into play. They laid a foundation; now the rest of us don't have to reinvent the wheel.
And there are many other resources out there. On my website (www.tracywalton.com), there are several bibliographies, a blog, and I've put up webinars about massage in cancer care for an intro to the deeper issues at work. For my own education, I read everything on oncology massage that I can get my hands on and I ask my students and colleagues to as well. Unlike 20 years ago, there is now plenty of literature available.
And plenty of clients deserving great, customized care.
Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.
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