resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
First Do No Harm?
There's no questioning the frightening nature of breast cancer, which strikes one in eight women in the U.S. – eclipsed only by skin cancer in terms of prevalence.
Green Tea Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects
Publishing their results in the journal Nutrients in May 2014, researchers showed that drinking the equivalent of 2-4 cups of brewed green tea (or bottled tea) daily improved cognitive function or reduced the progression of cognitive dysfunction in elderly subjects.
Professional Credentialing and Board Certification: An Ethical Faux Pas
Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care systems are coordinating care through accountable care organizations (ACOs) in order to reduce the cost of care and improve quality of care.
A Poor Choice for Pain Relief
Acetaminophen is the most popular pain reliever in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 27 billion annual doses as of 2009. With 100,000-plus hospital visits a year by users, it's also the most likely to be taken inappropriately.
Giving Vets the Care They Deserve
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health care system in the United States.
Leg-Length Inequality and Pelvic Fixation: A New Approach to the Negative Derifield (Part 2)
As we noted in our previous article, with a positive Derifield (+D), the doctor observes the reactive (shorter) leg in the prone position that becomes longer or "crosses over" in the flexed position.
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
Reducing the Autogenic Inhibition Reflex: Making Weak Muscles Strong
The autogenic inhibition (AI) reflex is a sudden relaxation of a muscle in response to excess tension.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
ACA or ICA: Which Best Represents You?
Last June, I was honored to represent Texas ICA members as their representative assemblyman at the ICA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
We Get Letters & Email
A House Divided? (May 1 issue) provoked significant response from readers. Here are several of the surprisingly similar comments we received.
Spieth Thanks His Chiropractor After Historic Masters Win
Jordan Spieth didn't just capture the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide with his record-setting, wire-to-wire victory at the 79th Masters Tournament.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Our Biggest Challenges to Compete in Wellness Care
In the first article in this four-article series [May 1 DC], I made the case that chiropractors should either embrace offering lifestyle wellness in their practices or face the possibility of losing their place in the wellness care marketplace.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
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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