resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
News In Brief
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine obtains grant funding from NIH; Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine Announces New President; Kentucky Gets Licensed; PCOM Receives Approval from WASC to Offer FPD.
Replenishing and Restoring Jing
I learned an important principle from my great Taoist Master Sun Hak. He taught me that all people "leak" Jing, and that we can mitigate or stop this leaking, and as a result strengthen our life force, develop enhanced adaptability and lengthen our life.
Deciphering the New CMS-1500 Claim Form
Q: I am confused about how and when to use the new 1500 form, particularly block 14 and block 15. What is required and how do I properly fill out these fields? And do I actually have to use this new form or may I continue using the old version?
News in Brief
D'Youville Vet Program Gets High Praise; A Moment of Silence for Dr. Paul Reginald ("Reg") Hug.
Don't Trust What Your Patients Say
When a patient presents to the office for care, they typically have a specific complaint – lower back pain, whiplash, sinus congestion, sciatica, etc. They are often not interested or engaged in what they consider "unrelated" personal health history.
Home Sweet Medical Home
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has received its fair share of praise and criticism since its adoption, few question the value of its emphasis on collaborative, patient-centered health care.
The Search for the Origin of the Wiggle Technique
When Bob had adjusted me previously, most of the time I knew what he was doing. But this time, he had me lie on the treatment table in the usual side-posture position, and he "wiggled" my sacroiliac with the fingers of both hands, while stabilizing my pelvis with his forearm.
Employers Need Chiropractic First and Sooner
From the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine comes a study that gives excellent direction to employers (and insurers) regarding the management of low back problems (LBP).
Low Melatonin Linked to Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer
Epidemiological and experimental studies suggest the hormone melatonin, which plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, may play a role in the development of prostate cancer, as lower melatonin levels have been associated with an increased risk of prostate (and breast) cancer.
Wellness: A New Buzzword at the Aging in America Conference
Aging in America is "the nation's largest gathering of a diverse, multidisciplinary community of professionals in healthcare, social service, government, business and philanthropy with expertise in providing services and products for older adults."
Shared Mechanisms Between Computer-Assisted Mechanical Adjusting and Contemporary Acupuncture?
Can contemporary acupuncture provide clues to the mechanisms responsible for pain relief provided by computer-assisted mechanical adjusting instruments, and clarify whether certain mechanical frequency combinations are superior to others for modulation of acute peripheral pain?
We Get Letters & E-Mail
Imagine What More Could Be Achieved With Your Support; A Lesson in Hygiene: What Do You Do in Your Office? Open Letter to the Profession.
Halt Allergies With Moxibustion Therapy
An allergy is an immune system disorder in which the body is hypersensitive to normally harmless substances in the environment.
The Boston Benevolent Chiropractic Clinic: Standing Up for the Needy
Our chiropractic assistant, Bridget, greeted an arriving patient at the Emmanuel Church in downtown Boston. She said, "Hi, Michael, good to see you. It's been awhile. Have a seat and Dr. Ken will see you soon."
New Leadership Era at the WFC
The World Federation of Chiropractic recently announced not only a new president, as is customary every two years, but also an incoming secretary-general, marking the first time since the WFC's inception in 1988 that someone other than David Chapman-Smith, Esq., will serve in that capacity.
Changes in Herbal Medicines from Ancient Times to the Present
The classical literature of Chinese medicine remains highly relevant in the modern era, as many of the basic theories and herbal combinations emphasized in clinical practice were first established in texts that are nearly 2000 years old.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part I
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Coronary heart disease, in just the United States alone, costs close to 109 billion dollars a year.
Medial Knee Pain: 11 Potential Causes (and Corrections)
We have all seen patients with medial knee pain that either has no traumatic origin or lasts well beyond when it should be resolved. How can we help these patients? Here is an overview of clinical scenarios and how we can provide conservative care.
CRREW Rallies for Ongoing Acupuncture Relief Effort in the Philippines
On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made her way through the Philippine Islands, leaving in her wake at least 7,000 people dead, millions homeless and complete communities destroyed.
"Doctor ... Always Do the Right Thing"
So says "Da Mayor" in the iconic Spike Lee movie. As a fresh grad questioning in-network versus out-of-network, it struck me that some doctors have explicitly skirted the issue, while others have argued adamantly for the latter and "sticking it to the man."
Don't Trust What a Patient Says
When a patient presents to the office for care, they typically have a specific complaint in mind – lower back pain, whiplash, sinus congestion, sciatica, etc.
Vibrational Medicine: Frequency Micro-Current and Color Acupuncture
Vibrational medicine involves the application of various forms of energy frequencies to the body for pain relief, healing and rejuvenation. Vibrational medicine will become a major growing trend in our medical systems for the following reasons:
The Importance of Knowing Mainstream Lingo
There is a secret lingo within mainstream medicine of which the vast majority of acupuncturists and Chinese medical professionals are unaware.
Working With The Yuan-Source Level: Resonance and the Extraordinary Vessels
How do we stay fresh with our medicine? As healers, how do we balance our medical selves with creative artistry? Chinese Medicine is not a fixed dogmatic entity, but a living system, reliant on a mysterious force called "resonance."
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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