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Massage Today
January, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 01

Massage and the Medical Community: MD Provides Answers

By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT

A lot has changed in the field of massage therapy since I entered it 30 years ago. We now have specialty areas to focus in, continuing education to pursue, conferences and workshops to attend and many wonderful products to support and sell.

Most importantly, massage therapy is now viewed by the majority of healthcare practitioners as a viable method of treating and managing health issues. Massage therapists are now on staff at hospitals, doctors' offices and assisted living facilities. And I do believe in my lifetime, we will see health insurance start to cover massage therapy for certain health issues.

In fact, one of my most loyal clients, Sara McCracken, happens to be a doctor. She retired from her position as the Director of the Breast Center at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after having a double mastectomy due to breast cancer. After experiencing the benefits of massage, she encouraged her mother (who was also a doctor) to start getting massages for herself as well. I decided to interview her, for a medical practitioner's view of massage in today's world. Below is part of our conversation.

MD - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark SP: How long have you been getting massage?

Dr. M: Weekly, since 1996.

SP: Has your opinion on the benefits of massage changed over the years?

Dr. M: Yes, I used to see it as a mechanism for just pleasure and relaxation. However, after I had breast cancer and a year of chemotherapies, surgeries and radiation, I was too exhausted to do any exercise. I started getting massages soon after that on a regular weekly basis. It improved my circulation and really increased my energy levels which were abysmally low. I developed significant arthritis and joint pain from some of the drugs I was still taking to keep the cancer at bay. Massage helped me remain more flexible. After a few years, the radiation caused significant tightening of the musculature in my chest on the left side, as well as the left side of my neck. This caused significant imbalance of the intercostals and paraspinal muscles. I did have physical therapy for many months as well as therapeutic massage each week and the massage helped to slow down the contracture of the muscles.

SP: For what conditions/problems do you recommend massage to your patients?

Dr. M: I recommend it especially for people who have had radiation and many patients on cancer medications, both for stress relief and physical pain. I also suggest massage for people with arthritis and other joint problems.

SP: In your experience, what has been the most "misunderstood" concept about massage in the medical community?

Dr. M: That it has no medical benefit – that it is more like a pedicure or facial because so many therapists happen to be housed in beauty salons or spas.

SP: Do you have any thoughts on whether or not massage should or should not be covered by health insurance?

Dr. M: YES! I hope it is covered for therapeutic massage, such as geriatric massage, sports injuries and for conditions like arthritis and numerous other chronic health conditions.

SP: Anything else you would like to say about massage and its benefits?

Dr. M: My mother Margaret, now deceased, was a retired doctor with significant arthritis and poor circulation. Massage therapy really helped her circulation and arthritis pain. Again, she would not have risked a "salon" massage targeting the younger, healthier population. But after seeing my success with it and finding a massage therapist with continuing education skills that had a private practice, she was willing to try it, and ended up fully supporting it. We both frequently had leg cramps. Massage therapy helps to release the lactic acid build up. Some of my medications also give me quad and hamstring muscle cramps that can hurt for many days unless I get my massage. It seems to be the only thing that helps manage that pain. I just cannot stress enough how much massage has helped me and my mother. I whole heartedly recommend it to people suffering from chronic pain.

I didn't realize I had been working with Dr. Sara for almost 20 years until we started this interview! That is one of the many perks of this career: clients that end up becoming respected colleagues, good acquaintances or personal friends. As I reflected upon this, I realized how fortunate I am to have entered this career field. I have spent the past 30 years helping people feel better on a daily basis and now I get to teach the next generation of therapists to do the same!


Sharon Puszko is the owner/director/educator for Day-Break Geriatric Massage Institute. She may be contacted at or through her Web site: www.daybreak-massage.com.

 

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