resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
The Recliner Test
"Hi, Bill, how are you?" "Oh, I'm OK, Doc. I've got pain down the leg again, so I thought I would stop by and get you to check it."
News in Brief
In Remembrance: A Moment of Silence for Dr. Dick Versendaal; NYCC Named Chiropractic College of the Year by ACA; National University Partners With Indiana VA Facility.
Enhancing TCM with Enzymes
Herbal formulations are an integral component for most Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. One of the best ways to enhance their effectiveness is the addition of plant-based enzymes.
Are You Driving Patients Toward Dependence on Big Pharma?
Over the years I have had the opportunity to talk to doctors of chiropractic about health promotion, wellness and preventive care in chiropractic practice.
Alternatives to the Rainy Day Fund: Better Things to Do With Your Money
Google "rainy day fund" and you'll find the predominant and traditional advice given today is that you need to have three months of living expenses saved for an emergency. Some even recommend six months or more.
Chinese Herbs Debut at the Cleveland Clinic
Chinese herbal medicine is now being prescribed at the Cleveland Clinic thanks to a trailblazing team of people.
Making Sense of Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is big business, evidenced by not only the laundry lists of medications patients bring me aimed at managing inflammation, but also the never-ending stream of advertisements for anti-inflammatory supplements that constantly find their way to my desk.
Revisiting the Neurological Exam
In spinal trauma or disease, the neurological exam chiefly aims to determine whether one (or more) of three basic neurological conditions is present: myelopathy, radiculopathy and peripheral nerve disorder.
Dry Needling is Acupuncture: Anatomy of a Legal Victory in Oregon
On January 23, 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners "dry needling" administrative rule, which allowed chiropractic physicians to perform acupuncture after only 24 hours of training.
Environmental Toxins: Cause of Modern Illness (Part I)
Environmental toxins have created burdens on the human body that put demands beyond our evolutionary development. Modern diseases that historically did not exist to any great degree have been rising sharply in the last 40 years.
Dietary Supplement Research: Contradictions, Bias, Misinterpretation and Confusion
I do not care what the truth is, one way or another; I just want to know it. And when it comes to dietary supplements, the truth can be hard to find for a number of reasons.
We Get Letters & E-Mail
Shouldn't the Pentagon Know More About Chiropractic Care? Office Flow: Have You Reviewed the Patient Experience Lately? Let's Stop Confusing the Public About Chiropractic; Cutting Down the Cherry Tree.
Colorado to Have the First Acupuncture Medical Reserve Corps in the U.S.
In the summer of 2012, Colorado was on fire. Literally. Many acupuncturists from around the state, especially those who had received disaster response training through AWB, wanted to help those affected by the fires as well as the first responders and tireless state and local officials, with the healing and stress-relief of acupuncture.
Evaluating Prenatal and Pediatric Automobile Injuries
Often in a family practice, one of your patients or an entire family is in an automobile accident and you are sought out to provide care for their soft-tissue injuries.
AAAOM: Facing An Ultimatum
On the heels of the growing discontent with leaders of the AAAOM, the Council of State Associations (CSA) recently took it upon themselves to present the organization with an ultimatum: for all board members to resign from the board and turn the organization over to the CSA or they will proceed on their own to become the primary representative of the AOM profession.
How Much is Enough?
One of the primary arguments used against acupuncture care is the overuse of treatment. Some people say, "once you go, you have to go forever."
Arch Height and Running Shoes: The Best Advice to Give Patients
Because runners with different arch heights are prone to different injuries, running shoe manufacturers have developed motion-control, stability and cushion running shoes for low-, neutral- and high-arched runners, respectively.
Chiropractic Management of Sports-Related Tendinopathy
Tendinopathy is increasing in prevalence and accounts for a substantial percentage of sports injuries. Despite the magnitude of the disorder, research on chiropractic treatment is limited.
Through the Eyes of a Child
Once upon a time there was a girl name Lucy. Lucy had cancer, but she had a heart filled with love and compassion. Please come along to hear this story of an amazing child, her tenacity and her dream to help other children.
Anti-Aging: Educating Your Patients About The Skin
We know that cosmetic acupuncture works but what then? Education is a key part to the practice of Chinese medicine and when you practice cosmetic acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, etc., it is time talk about skin with your patients.
Your Chance to Go Back to High School
As the father of a student who recently entered high-school sports (soccer), I have come to recognize an untapped opportunity for the chiropractic profession.
San Zhen Protocols Part II: Case Studies
In my last article, I presented a collection of three-point acupuncture combinations which can provide effective clinical results.
Socializing In My Slippers
When I graduated college, I had grandiose dreams of becoming an amazing acupuncturist. I wanted to build a great practice and make a good living. For four years, 13 semesters to be exact, I had a spreadsheet.
The Right Idea at the Right Time
On Feb. 28, 2014, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed David Brown, DC, as new director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions.
Shoulder Strategies: Reduce Pain, Improve Function With Proper Taping
Shoulder pain / dysfunction is a common problem for chiropractic patients. Clinicians who utilize elastic therapeutic taping as part of their treatment approach know it can be effective for a variety of shoulder problems.
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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