resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
March, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 03
Educate Yourself: Massaging a Client with ALS
By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT
In 1941, baseball legend Lou Gehrig died of a neurological disorder known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. For the first time, people in cities across the country were discussing this rare and mysterious disease in their newspapers and on their radio stations.During the 70 years that have passed since then, advances in scientific research have provided us with a better understanding of the causes, symptoms, types and treatment of ALS. However, there is still no proven cure for the disease. Over the past 10 years, physicians have increasingly turned to massage therapy to help their patients manage the symptoms of the disease.
While this is fantastic news for practitioners of massage therapy, it also means we must educate ourselves about ALS. Do you know what the symptoms of ALS are? Are you aware of how the disease affects people emotionally? Would you treat an ALS client the same way you would treat an athlete? In order for massage therapy to be truly beneficial to PALS (People with ALS), massage therapists must do their best to learn appropriate techniques for ALS clients and do their best to understand what life is like for PALS.
What is ALS?
ALS is an incurable, degenerative, neurological disorder affecting the nerve cells of the brain and spinal chord that control voluntary muscle movement. These nerve cells deliver messages from the brain to the skeletal muscles of the body involved with voluntary movements such as walking, writing or playing an instrument. As these cells gradually deteriorate, the brain can no longer tell the body what to do. For instance, the brain of an ALS patient will tell its hand to pick up a pen and start to write, but the message will no longer be able to reach the hand. Muscles eventually waste away from disuse and this can lead to paralysis in the late stages of the disease.
The ALS Association says there are about 30,000 Americans living with ALS and about 5,600 people are diagnosed with the disease every year in the United States. ALS is more common among men than women and the majority of cases appear in people between the ages of 40 and 70. ALS has no economic, racial or ethnic boundaries and occurs in two out of every 100,000 people worldwide.
What Causes ALS?
There is no one definitive cause of ALS. There are several theories surrounding the causes of the two types of ALS occurring in the United States: sporadic and familial. Sporadic ALS is the most common type of the disease, accounting for 90% to 95% of all cases. Disturbances in the immune system, excess levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate and exposure to fertilizers, heavy metals or animal hides are all possible factors that may influence the likely hood of acquiring sporadic ALS. Familial ALS (FALS) accounts for the remaining 5% to 10% of ALS cases in the United States. About 40% of familial ALS cases are linked to a defective gene on chromosome 21 that does not produce a normal amount of the enzyme superoxide dismutase. It is unknown at this time what genetic defect is the cause for the remaining 60% of people with FALS.
Symptoms of ALS
Initially, patients with ALS usually experience a weakening of skeletal muscles in the arms and legs. They might also have frequent muscle spasms in these areas. People with ALS find it difficult to pick things up, walk, swallow and communicate effectively. As the disease progresses, the muscles of the arm and legs will begin to atrophy. During the final stages of the disease, the respiratory muscles that control breathing deteriorate and the patient must depend on a respirator for the rest of his/her life.
Some of the most common physical problems people with ALS encounter are: dysphagia and the need to meet nutritional requirements; the maintenance of blood gases within normal range; impaired verbal communication; weakness, impaired mobility and activity intolerance; constipation; and pain and discomfort due to muscle cramps. Depression is common among ALS patients and many experience an alteration in self-concept and body image.
Rilutex (riluzole) is one of the only drugs that has proven to prolong a patient's life and delay the progression of ALS. Most of the other medications (Baclofen, Zanaflex, Tramadol) prescribed by doctors are to help ease the patient's pain, not to treat the disease. Because many of the symptoms people with ALS suffer from are related to skeletal muscles, physical therapy and massage therapy are now being recommended as another form of pain management.
How Can Massage Help?
Massage therapy increases blood circulation, relaxes muscles, improves range of motion, reduces pain and swelling and promotes improved respiration: all of which can help treat symptoms ALS patients suffer from. People with advanced ALS are often threatened by decubitus ulcers from lack of activity. Massage therapy can help a patient maintain good circulation in order to avoid decubitus ulcers; at the same time, it can also help the patient overcome depressive feelings he/she might be having as a result of a recent loss of speech or the disease in general.
Dr. Robert Pascuzzi, a Professor of Neurology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, is of the opinion that massage therapy, "can be very beneficial to patients with ALS. Those who have been fortunate enough to receive such therapy all seem enthusiastic about the effects: relaxation... rest... feeling good. If their muscles are stiff and spastic it helps relax them and makes their skin feel better. Remember, these patients have intact sensation; they just have weak muscles. I have probably had 10 or 20 ALS patients receive massage therapy over the years. I think doctors should suggest ALS patients try massage therapy, as it would be well worth a try for everyone. I think it improves the quality of their day. They feel better."
Below are some techniques designed specifically for the needs of an ALS patient.
Passive and Assistive Range of Motion Exercises
Range of motion exercises will prevent or at least slow down the freezing of joints as the disease progresses and the body moves less often. As always, check with the doctor before doing any of these movements.
While people in advanced stages of ALS might not be able to give verbal feedback to a massage, often they can let you know what they are feeling by the movement of facial muscles or the blinking of eyes. By asking "yes" and "no" questions, it is possible to work successfully with an ALS patient.
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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