resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
The Problem With Prolonged Sitting
We need to constantly talk to our patients about spending less time sitting and about what can go wrong with poor sitting postures. The fact is we sit too long in repetitive malpositions.
Let the Patient Tell Their Story
Often when a patient presents with an injury, they want to tell their story. People by nature like to talk about themselves, particularly when they're worried about their health.
Medicalization and Mindfulness
The past several years have seen a veritable explosion of research on mindfulness. Research abstracts we've published in each issue of Health Insights Today under the heading "Mind-Body News" have increasingly reported on studies about mindfulness interventions.
A Glimpse Into China's Top Brain Hospital
The sounds of the city pass through the open window are overwhelming the microphone - car horns, construction machinery - and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
The Truth About Herbs
I appreciate the effort and research put into the article written in the June issue of Acupuncture Today regarding pesticides and Chinese herbs.
The Spirit of the Point
After receiving a large amount of positive feedback on my San Zhen Protocols series, I have decided to focus this article on some relevant clinical aspects of acupuncture therapy prior to moving on to San Zhen Protocols III.
When Big Pharma Meets Chinese Medicine
Earlier this year, Bayer made a media splash with their decision to buy the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co., a Chinese TCM manufacturer.
Thoughts to Live By
When speaking to your patients about their health make sure to ponder the following points and have them assess if they are making themselves even more sick by the thoughts they have about life. Are these some of the traits and thoughts that your patients might have?
History of Animal Acupuncture: Part II
In Part I of this article, I had gone back to 1969 and tried to describe the atmosphere and events of that year that engulfed many of the younger generation, some who were all the core members of the National Acupuncture Association.
Get Ready For AOM Day
This year, AOM Day 2014 falls on Friday, (October 24th). This is a great opportunity to make your AOM Day celebration or event even bigger by extending it throughout the weekend!
News in Brief
NBCE Launches Computer-Based Testing Era; California Chiropractors Get Expanded DOT Exam Privileges; New Jeff Hays Documentary.
A Healthy Dose of Failure is Vital to Your Success
As an acupuncturist I tend to see people after they have already suffered for years and "tried everything." They are so desperate for some relief that they want to know everything about how to get better, right now.
Thoracolumbar Syndrome: The Great Mimic
The thoracolumbar junction is a common area of joint dysfunction. The most obvious cause is dysfunctional breathing or lack of diaphragmatic breathing. Treating this breathing problem will ultimately be the long-term cure for the syndrome.
Healing Community Trauma in Israel and Palestine
It's the beginning of August and Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after a month of brutal fighting. In the last four weeks, 1,830 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
Rethinking GMO: Less Panic, More Context
Some of you may have noticed that after writing parts 1 and 2 of “Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption” a while back [Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014 issues], part 3 never appeared.
Uncle Sam Needs You
Scrutiny into the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) continues to grow after efforts to reform the DVA by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, were deemed "a stunning period of dysfunction" by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
A Commonly Missed Spinal Fixation: The Upper Lumbar Spine (Part 1)
When we think of lower back pain, we tend to think in terms of the lower lumbar spine and the SI joint. These joints and their discs are obviously important. However, we tend to miss fixations that occur just above – in the upper lumbar spine. Three questions come to mind: 1) Why is the upper lumbar spine so important? 2) Why do we miss the fixations here? 3) How can we adjust them?
MPA Media Wins Seven Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Acupuncture Today, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecendented seven publishing awards by the ASBPE, the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
Help Secure Our Future by Sharing It
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) conducts one of the most comprehensive surveys of the U.S. chiropractic profession every 4-5 years.
Improving Our Political Effectiveness
The November 2014 elections are right around the corner; members of Congress, governors and state legislators are all running. Now is a good time to talk frankly about our overall political involvement.
The Science Behind Happiness
Are you happy right now? Whether yes or no, there are a myriad of reasons why you feel that way. A whole academic discipline has developed to find out what causes or obstructs happiness, and how to amplify it.
December, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 12
Know What You Are Dealing With: Radiation Therapy and Massage
By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS
Radiation therapy, often abbreviated as XRT for "X-Ray Therapy," is sometimes brushed aside as having fewer side effects than other cancer treatments. But radiation therapy can have strong effects on the body and some require significant adjustments in the massage session.
Myths and misinformation about massage and cancer treatment prevent patients from receiving good, supportive massage therapy care.
Radiation therapy is roughly classified as external beam radiation therapy (EBRT or EBT) and internal radiation therapy. External radiation is the more common of the two, where the patient lies on a surface and a machine, called a linear accelerator, delivers a beam of radiation to the tumor.
It can be used to shrink a tumor before surgery, prevent recurrence after surgery, or it can be used as palliative care when lesions cause pain.
Two Types of Radiation Therapy
External radiation treatments are usually only a few minutes long — most of the patient's session is spent making sure they are properly lined up on the treatment table.
A radiation oncologist typically maps out a specific field of treatment to treat the tumor from a number of angles. This is done to best target the tumor and spare the healthy tissue surrounding it. The sessions themselves are also usually painless.
Internal radiation often involves the placement of small radioactive implants inside the body near the tumor cells. This internal application, also called brachy therapy, allows for a higher dose of radiation and a more focused approach without the risk of damaging too much neighboring tissue.
Internal radiation seeds can be implanted and left in the body (such as with prostate cancer), a wand can be placed and removed (such as with gynecologic cancer), or a radioactive iodine solution can be ingested (as with thyroid cancer).
Touch and Radiation Therapy
Education about massage and cancer is limited in most basic training programs. As a result, a common misconception among massage therapists is that any client going through radiation therapy is "hot" and "radioactive" and either the practitioner should only touch them while wearing gloves, or the client should not be touched at all.
But the truth is that, in the case of EBRT, the radiation source is the linear accelerator which stays in the room. The client is not "contaminated" and the therapist should make appropriate massage adjustments for other factors in cancer treatment. It is safe for a massage therapist to touch the client.
In the case of internal radiation therapy, clients are considered "hot" if the implants are still in and if they are still radioactive (and not expired seeds, as in the case of prostate cancer). You should ask the client ahead of the session.
Ask where and when the internal radiation was implanted, and if there are any contact precautions in place. Most people are already following these precautions and clients are unlikely to seek out massage unless they are cleared for contact.
Radiation is aimed at the cancer cells, but nearby tissues in the path of the beam may be affected as well. Clients can experience swelling, reddening or change in pigmentation and dry and/or itchy skin. They may lose hair in the radiation field.
Another common side effect is overall fatigue. It often starts up a few weeks after treatment begins and can linger for weeks or even months after treatment is complete.
Some side effects depend on where the radiation field is located. Here are some examples:
One complication of XRT is of particular note for massage therapists: Radiation treatment can injure lymph nodes, and lymph nodes in the neck, axilla or groin are often included in the field. This can put a client at lifelong risk for lymphedema, a disfiguring, debilitating and often painful condition that can cause a host of complications.
There is little specific research on massage for clients in XRT, but our clients tell us that the contact of skilled touch can be healing. Relaxation during a stressful time and relief from side effects such as nausea, fatigue and pain provide welcome possibilities for clients.
The key is making sure we apply this touch safely. Finding out how to best serve our clients going through radiation therapy, or who have recently completed therapy, starts with asking the right questions in the intake interview. Here is a "starter list" of questions for these clients:
Therapists will find many massage adjustments for radiation treatment echo common sense: On a current or recent radiation field, we use no friction, pressure, no heat, hot stones or cold therapy, nothing besides hospital-approved lubricants (metals are contraindicated and fragrances can be irritating) and generally no direct contact if it's a current field.
A simple hold through the drape may be possible over a dry radiation field, and the hands-on contact may be soothing. Any other sort of technique brings with it the risk of disturbing healing skin and other tissues, or further exacerbation of skin changes such as flaking, itching, blistering or weeping.
Because the risk of lymphedema is very real in many clients after XRT therapy, it is important to fully understand the condition before attempting to work with clients with histories of cancer treatment. Lymphedema risk is an example of a "hidden contraindication." The adjustments are not intuitively obvious and working safely requires good interviewing and hands-on skills.
If key lymph nodes were in the radiation field, there are strict massage adjustments in pressure, stroke direction, joint movement and position.
It is essential to avoid anything that would redden the skin or injure the intact lymphatic structures. "Just working lightly" is not a complete guideline here and the wrong pressure, thermal application, joint movement or stroke direction could trigger irreversible, chronic lymphedema.
For specifics, refer to Gayle MacDonald's Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer.
Language is Important
When speaking with a client, we do not ask about "radiation burns" or refer to any areas as "burned." Although we essentially treat these areas as if burned, in cancer care these areas are referred to by more neutral terms: "skin changes" or "skin effects."
For complete massage therapy guidelines, therapists are referred to the Society for Oncology Massage, to the literature on oncology massage and to the growing availability of specialized training.
Because radiation treatment can place a significant demand on the body and effects are often cumulative, oncology massage therapy is careful and does not introduce any more stressors.
Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.
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