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TCM Congress in Rothenburg is Largest in Western World
In the medieval town of Rothenburg, deep set within the Bavarian countryside in Southern Germany, the TCM Kongress Rothenburg each year draws around 1.200 participants from more than 40 different countries to attend the biggest TCM conference in the Western world.
Recreational Cannabis Use and TCM
Many people are drawn to cannabis for its effects physically, mentally and emotionally. Medically, cannabis has some legitimate uses, however the scope of this article is limited to the recreational use of cannabis.
An Excerpt from TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Jamie Wu. TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics was released in 2014 by People's Medical Publishing House.
Talking to Patients About Lumbar Facet Denervation (Medial Branch Neurotomy)
Lumbar facet denervation, more appropriately termed medial branch neurotomy (MBN), is a procedure that may be considered when patients suffer from recalcitrant non-radicular axial back and/or leg pain.
There Really is No Room for Sexism
Recently, Matteo* (a transgender male) approached me during a break in an advanced shiatsu class in Berlin where he was one of two men in a group of 20 women. "Pamela. Don't forget to remind the translator to include male endings."
Turning a Blind Eye to History – and Reality
The American Medical Association is taking the Supreme Court's Feb. 25, 2015 decision exactly as it always does – by turning a blind eye to history, legal precedent and reality.
Low Back Pain in Professional Golf: A Common Muscular Relationship
Every sport creates its own unique demands on the body. Some sports require such a myriad of body positions that assessing pathology is often difficult and unpredictable.
Synergy Doesn't Happen in Silos: Acupuncture in Hospitals and Other Healthcare Settings
As acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine continue to intersect and integrate with biomedical approaches, the conversation about integration expands and becomes richer.
Sleep, Less Sleep or No Sleep?
I had a dream I wasn't getting enough sleep. It was a very realistic dream, even though I was probably slightly awake and not really deep dreaming. Most likely I had been dozing, caught in that twilight of sleep and wakefulness.
Applying the Thin Skull Principle
The "thin skull" principle, also known as the "you take your victim as you find them" principle, is a legal principle that can be summed up by the following statement.
Term Limits: What's in a Word?
It was the French historian and philosopher Voltaire who once declared the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire.
The Way We Are Designed: A Conversation with Gil Hedley, PhD
I was first introduced to the work of Gil Hedley by Tom DiFerdinando. He gifted me Gil's DVD series.
Treating Beyond Pain
More often than not, when a patient presents to the office, it is for a pain complaint. Headache, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel... The pain is often the focus of the patient's mindset, and they don't often have any thought of what comes after the pain.
Converting More Patients to Your Practice
In 2013 and 2014, the theme was "the money is in the list." This meant that if you had a big email list, you were really making some "cha-ching." Unfortunately, having thousands of emails doesn't equate to thousands of dollars in profit.
The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biopsychosocial and Ecopsychologica Medicine
Chinese medicine speaks of alignment between humans, heaven and earth. It is a complex view with a focus upon relationship. These are comprehensive ideas with no specific terms in contemporary medical practice.
Optimism = Compassion = Trust
A randomized clinical trial recently published online in JAMA Oncology examined how patients viewed their doctor based upon how the practitioner presented bad news to the patient.
Functional Hip Impingement (Part 1)
Every time I sit down to write an article, I realize how much more there is to know about musculoskeletal pain. I also learn something new every time. (I want to give special thanks to Lucy Whyte Ferguson for assisting with this article.)
A View From the ER
The University of Western States has inked an innovative agreement with local nonprofit health system Legacy Health whereby UWS sports-medicine fellows can experience observational clinical rotations in emergency-room settings within the Legacy system.
A House Divided?
The American Chiropractic Association's House of Delegates voted on 30 resolutions at its annual business meeting in Washington D.C., but two in particular took immediate center stage due to their controversial nature.
Will You Be an Amplifer or a Mute?
These times are changing, and changing quickly. There have been many challenges to this profession throughout the past few years. The challenge is to talk, then talk and talk some more about this medicine.
The Dietary Supplement Research Dilemma
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.
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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