resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 03
Ending the Energy Debate
By David Lauterstein, RMT
There have been many recent online discussions in our field about "energy" and the role it may or may not play in our work and education. Many people have noted regretfully that some of the discussions have given rise to divisiveness somewhat uncharacteristic in our field.Partly, this may be a function of "social" media. When it comes to sorting out emotions, it is not a very effective medium. This reminds us that, unlike massage and the world of "high touch" in which compassion is the rule, the Internet and the world of "high tech" is not a very effective context for resolving difficult emotions.
What everyone does appear to agree on is enhancing the quality of education and therapists. It may be helpful to look at what role "energy" may or may not play in improving massage education and in therapy. First, we need to know what we are talking about. What does energy mean? Importantly, it is a word for which there is more than one definition. The definitions of "energy" refer to two quite different things – a quality of action and a physical phenomenon.
Here is the definition from the free online dictionary:
The first two definitions are more subjective and refer to the world of experience and a quality of action. The second two definitions are more objective, referring to measurable physical phenomena described by science. As we look at the energetic aspect of massage and bodywork, let's keep these varying definitions in mind.
We can note in the beginning that the energetic aspect of massage refers more to the quality of action and touch, than to the scientific, objective definition. Is massage "energy work?" If we mean by energy work, pure energy work done off-the-body, it is fairly easy to say "no." Massage involves touching the body and often is defined expressly as soft tissue manipulation in textbooks and in many state laws.
Is there an energetic aspect to touch therapy done on-the-body? Using the quality of action definitions above, we can say "yes." The quality of our touch may be considered energetic. Quantifiable aspects such as pressure may be measured, but the energetic aspect is more subjectively experienced.
We need to remember that massage can (and should) be objectively studied, but it is experienced subjectively by the client. Clients are interested in feeling better, in having more pleasure, less pain, more relaxation and more energy. Using the first two definitions we see these are subjective goals, facilitated by both the structural and energetic clarity with which we engage the tissues and the nervous system of the body.
Where both the pro- and anti-energy camps get in trouble is when they leap to the objective definitions of energy. The pro-energy folks wish to see the energy aspect of massage and bodywork as objectively existing, like electricity or magnetism. While these may be intriguing metaphors for the energetic aspect of our work, there is little if any proof that the energy spoken of by some massage therapists and bodyworkers exists objectively. Again and again, we need to return to the fact that the energetic aspect refers most directly to subjective experience. This makes it no less real, our experience is real – but like thought and emotion, like love – you can't find it under a microscope.
Now the elusiveness of how to describe subjective/energetic experience has given rise to various terminologies. Some people are attracted to a particular language describing the energetic aspect because that was what they were taught or they find those concepts and vocabularies illuminating of their own experience as receivers and as givers. Some people find helpful the languages of chi or meridians, prana, kundalini, chakras, bio-energy, élan vital, psychology or phenomenology, etc. Some people prefer language referring primarily to the nervous and endocrine systems, seeing the experience of energy largely as a projection of the brain.
How can and should we reflect these varying views in our education? No one is saying this should a mandatory part of basic curricula, however, there are some ways various educators may choose in a balanced way to cover this topic.
We may cover some of energetic aspects of massage and bodywork in our history classes. Asian concepts linking up energy and anatomy have played a role in the history of massage. The "humours" in medieval medicine; the assumption of links between the spiritual and physical aspects of health; the energetic understandings of psychology and, most recently, psychoneuroimmunology – any or all of these may be helpful in producing students with a fuller picture of our work and its roots in the history of manual and mind-body therapy.
We can note that many modalities explicitly integrate structural and energetic work – zero balancing, deep massage, some forms of myofascial release. And many more assume this is what's happening – shiatsu, Thai massage, rolfing, etc.
We should cover how conscious and unconscious beliefs affect health. Chronic mindsets and chronic emotional conditions can exacerbate or even cause a variety of tension-syndromes. The placebo effect is powerful. Ted Kaptchuk, author and acupuncturist and colleagues mostly from Harvard have created a "Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter." It is equally important for students to also understand the nocebo effect – the harm that can be caused by uncaring healthcare that may evoke negative feelings in the client. Placebo and nocebo effects of course may be considered as within the realm of the energetics of touch.
In looking at assessment skills and the therapeutic relationship, it is important that we consider posture, movement, and the energetics that may underlie those. We may agree on what we should not do:
We should not talk to clients about their "energy." Diagnosis, whether structural or energetic, is not within our scope of practice. When a massage therapist or bodyworker talks to the client about their energy, they are way beyond the boundaries of massage (and basic etiquette) and quite likely to evoke the nocebo affect by verbally attributing certain energy characteristics to a client.
We should be conscious that when we are touching people, it is a contact which is more than just physical. This means we need to take responsibility for the energetic as well physical effects of our interaction and touch. We need to recognize that we are touching both structure and energy.
Massage is an art and a science. We depend on research and scientific knowledge to enable us to work effectively with our clients. At the same time, every session is a person-to-person, moment-to-moment improvisation that calls for a subtle sensitivity to the medium we are working with. In the case of massage/bodywork, our medium is the most complex and sensitive life form known to exist. Of course, we need art and science. Of course, we need to know this person is a profound integration of structure and energy, tissue and issues, and to be sensitive to what is both objectively true and subjectively experienced.
To argue for or against either the structural or energetic perspective is like arguing which of your two eyes you ought to see out of. By honoring both what research and what subjective experiences teach us, we arrive at the highest quality of touch, education and therapeutic benefit. Without science, without a respect for knowledge and structure, we lose our commitment to truth; without art, without a respect for subjective, energetic experience, we lose our commitment to the soul and beauty of our work. We see better and more truly with both eyes.
David Lauterstein is Co-Director of Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin, Texas. He is author of "The Deep Massage Book" and "Putting the Soul Back in the Body." David has been inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, received AMTA's Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year Award, and in 2013, was recognized as "Educator of the Year" by the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. For more info, visit www.TLCschool.com.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.