Bad for the Back! Exercises That Can Prevent Healing
The questions "Who gets well? Who doesn't? Why?" prompted the following observations based on my close to 40 years of chiropractic practice.
Dietary Supplements That Help Restless Leg Syndrome
It is estimated that 7-10 percent (possibly up to 15 percent) of the U.S. population has restless leg syndrome. It is a bit more common in women than men.
Acupuncture is a Science-Based Medicine
A longstanding patient of mine came in for a routine treatment after she recently began seeing a chiropractor for neck pain. She saw him a couple of times and wasn't getting the relief she had hoped for, so he recommended she let him do dry needling.
Year in Review: DC's Best of the Best for 2018
As 2018 winds down, let's highlight the most popular articles in Dynamic Chiropractic by month (December – this issue – excluded, of course).
Goodbye, Year of the Dog: Two-Thousand-Eighteen Comes to a Close
As Year of the Dog (2018) comes to a close we can look back and see the progress this profession has made. For example, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) added traditional medicine codes, which were released in June.
A Guide to CBD Dosing: The Correlation Between Dose & Potency
There is an abundance of information available about the daily use of whole plant hemp CBD oil to help maintain and support a healthy lifestyle, however there remains a lack of sound guidance on CBD oil dosing.
Malpractice Insurance: Understanding the Cover Letter
Purchasing medical liability insurance is quick, easy and not terribly expensive. The benefits are clearly listed on a certificate—but do you really know what you are getting with that peace of mind?
VA Chiropractic Reduces Veterans' Use of Opioids?
Utilization of pain medication – particularly opioids – has been massively high in among veterans for decades, but Veterans Administration guidelines that recommend nonpharmacological first-line treatment options create a greater opportunity than ever for VA chiropractors to make a dent in the opioid and overall pain-management crisis.
Cynicism and Burnout: It Can Happen to You
Trying to achieve fulfillment as a doctor in today's health care environment is a "rigged game" and physicians are programmed to burn out. At least this is the opinion of Dike Drummond, MD, in his thehappymd.com blog.
A New President for AOMA: A Conversation With Mary Faria
Dr. Faria was formerly a health care executive for over 30 years, the last 17 of those years as vice president and chief operating officer of Seton Southwest Hospital in Austin. She chairs the board of Austin Mayor's Health and Fitness Council.
Reality Check: Do We Need to Try Harder?
While waiting for a flight to a recent chiropractic event, I overheard the ticket agent at the gate next to mine on his cellphone. His side of the conversation went something like this: "Where are you now? How long before you think you can be at the gate? OK, that will work, see you soon."
The Raw Food Debate: Practitioners Discuss Nutrition & TCM
Licensed acupuncturist and fellow blogger Elissa Gonda joins this month's column for a conversation about raw food diets. She brings her perspective on the healing potential of a raw primal diet.
Acupuncture in Hospital Systems: Transitioning From Tolerated to Celebrated
I've had the pleasure of working with Susan Luria, Director of University Hospitals Health Systems Connor Integrative Health Network (CIHN) for the past year on the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC) Board of Directors and Federal Policy Committee.
The Top 5 Strategies to Manage Your Reputation Online
You don't need an acupuncture website anymore! Okay, maybe that statement is a little over the top. But it's not that far from the truth. A recent study on Google searches revealed that 34 percent of all searches resulted in no clicks at all.
News in Brief
A Comprehensive Model of Spine Care; Dr. Christine Goertz Appointed Vice Chair of PCORI Board of Governors.
Exercise Therapy Following Motor Vehicle Trauma (Pt. 2)
In cases of cervical spine trauma, particularly trauma related to a motor vehicle accident, my plan is to teach the patient one exercise per session and build a progression. This is an effective approach I call an "activation circuit."
2018 Gallup-Palmer Report: Key Findings
The fourth annual Gallup – Palmer College report is out; here are some of the key findings excerpted directly from the executive summary regarding Americans' experiences with chiropractic care relative to the management of neck and back pain:
The Truth About Malpractice Claims Against DCs (Pt. 1)
Over the past 20 years of active practice, I have seen a number of scary case scenarios regarding signs, symptoms and patient presentations in my office. These presentations scream, This patient is going through an event or This patient does not need chiropractic care, they need emergency care.
Electrotherapy Gives Hope for Patients With Spinal Cord Injury
There has been little optimism for recovery from a spinal cord injury because the central nervous system does not repair itself well. The severity of the injury depends on the affected area.
ACA Champions H.R. 7157; ICA Voices Major Concerns
While the American Chiropractic Association recently penned an open letter – signed by not only the ACA, but also the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations, Association of Chiropractic Colleges, Clinical Compass and a number of state associations.
A Simple Miracle: Treatment for Mysterious Foot Pain
Under the old ICD-9 diagnosis codes, there was actually a diagnosis for "adventures in medical mismanagement" to describe patients who had been run down the rabbit hole of poor case management and care. I encountered one of those patients in my office today.
Reaching for Our Roots: Healing Digestion With a Simple Traditional Therapy
Are you ignoring a powerful tool in your doctor's bag? Many acupuncturists realize that Spleen Qi deficiency has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Yet, we don't prioritize educating our patients about the importance of warm, cooked foods.
A Soy Isoflavone That Packs a Punch: Genistein
Soybeans contains unique substances called isoflavones, most notably genistein and daidzein, which have been shown to block the buildup the dangerous type of testosterone in the prostate gland linked to prostate enlargement and prostate cancer.
VA Choice Claims Denied? Here's How You Can Get Paid
The VA Choice Program (PC3 as well) indeed pays for chiropractic care including manipulation (CMT 98940-98943) and some physical medicine services.
When Computers Cause UCS: Adjusting Strategy
With the widespread use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, the incidence of "text neck" has reached almost epidemic proportions. But there is another challenge to the spinal health and well-being of our technology-driven society.
Knocking Down the Doors: Big Media Success for F4CP
Three articles authored by a DC or a chiropractic organization and promoting the value of chiropractic care – par for the course if you're Dynamic Chiropractic, but if you're Forbes, BOSS Magazine and Becker's Spine Review, three media outlets tailored toward high-level executives and decision-makers, we're talking about an entirely different story.
October, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 10
Searching for Simple Rules in Massage and Cancer Care
By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS
In a Facebook post, a massage therapist requested quick advice for working with a client with cancer. On Facebook, of course, everything is quick.Almost immediately, he was bombarded with massage recommendations, safety protocols, references to books and trainings and encouragement to get a note from the client's doctor before beginning massage therapy. Opinions were all over the place and some didn't agree, but most were strongly held.
There are many safety protocols in massage for people with cancer, depending on the approach, and some of them may seem strict and even intimidating. They may even call to mind an old-school style teacher with a stern face and pointer in hand, barking a lot of, "No!" and "Never!"
And it's just as tempting to condense the protocols into a "Ten Commandments" format, a simple list to keep everyone out of trouble, without having to think much more about it.
More Than One Disease
But real oncology massage practice is not as simple as a quick list and here is why: the word "cancer" represents more than 200 different diseases. Even "breast cancer" is not a single condition but is classified into several different types. Drilling it down even further, two clients with the same type of primary breast cancer can present very differently, depending on the extent of the disease, reactions to treatment and other factors.
With so many ways our oncology clients can present, a list of "10 Things to Remember for Massage for a Client with Cancer" would not begin to capture them all. This is disappointing for those of us who've come to expect our advice in neat 5- or 10-point lists, packaged and propagated on social media.
Moreover, many of us learned and practice massage contraindications based on a client's diagnosis. Massage is contraindicated for X or Y condition. Unfortunately, this approach has never been adequate for any condition. But it particularly backfired in the case of cancer, where we had a single, flat-out, send-them-home massage contraindication that endured for decades. That one never worked well for clients or therapists. All it did was keep them apart.
Things have improved since then, with plenty of literature and training on oncology massage, a growing cohort of oncology massage therapists and even a professional organization, the Society for Oncology Massage (www.s4om.org). Thanks to the Society, there are standards of practice and even standards of oncology massage education with a fleet of recognized instructors around the globe. Some massage schools, as well, have made improvements in instruction, with careful attention to this population.
But in some places, the thinking hasn't evolved much at all. In many circles, "Send them home," has been replaced with, "Work lightly and you should be fine." This single approach is hard to justify for 200 different conditions representing thousands of different client presentations. Unfortunately, a blanket contraindication is not any improvement over a blanket contraindication. Still, we cling to rules like this. Sometimes too tightly. We strive to follow them to the letter because, if we do this, we will be doing everything "right" and the outcome will be positive. Or will it?
Beware the Blanket
Take all the many different types of cancer alongside all the different types of PEOPLE in the world – age, gender, level of activity, health history, ability to bounce back from illness, responses to cancer treatment and the thousands of other factors that make up who they are – and there just isn't a blanket rule big enough to cover it all. Nor should there be.
At a recent oncology massage practice clinic, we had two clients with similar-sounding diagnoses. Both had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the past four years, had received similar treatments and were about the same age. On paper, they could have been twins, except for their answers to this question: "What kind of activities are you able to participate in?" "Client A" wrote "kayaking and yoga." "Client B" wrote "babysitting grandchildren." Without making assumptions, this was our first hint that one might be more active than the other.
On the day of the clinic, "Client A" sailed into the treatment room, looking robust and buoyant with energy. She greeted everyone with clear eyes and shook hands vigorously. "Client B" was much more careful with her steps, stopping for frequent rests on the way up the stairs, her gait slower than her "twin-on-paper." The difference between the two was immediately obvious.
Different Presentation, Different Massage
"Client A" needed some adjustments in massage – notably in stroke direction, placement and pressure over the arm and trunk compromised by missing lymph nodes. With lymphedema risk, she had to receive thoughtful work in that area, as described in Gayle MacDonald's epic text, Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer.
But outside these careful measures, "Client A" could take slightly stronger work in places, and that's what she received that day. Afterward, she was relaxed, glowing and effusive about the massage therapist's skills.
"Client B" needed the gentlest massage – light pressure, slow speed, even rhythms, gradual transitions and a host of other adjustments to the information in her history. Also at risk for lymphedema, she received similar work in the at-risk area. After such a gentle session, she looked blissfully relaxed. A stronger session could easily have wiped her out. Instead, she seemed to float out the door as slowly as she'd entered it.
After thoughtful interviews and sound clinical reasoning, each client received an individualized session. But had we practiced with a "go lightly and you should be fine" mentality, Client A and Client B would have received identical sessions. Client A would have received the massage meant for Client B, with the possibility of a much less satisfying experience.
This has serious consequences, because without customized care, we can lose clients. Why? Because they can feel as if they are not being heard or being seen for who they are beyond the "cancer" label. We want to stay far away from the possibility of causing injury to our clients with cancer, of course. Our hearts are in the right place. But if we are TOO careful, we can be seen as being out of touch with what our client really needs and what they are capable of safely receiving.
Some of those harder-and-faster "rules" are easy and there is comfort in that ease. But sometimes, in our quest to compartmentalize and label and follow rules X, Y and Z, the client themselves – how they present, what they want, who they ARE – gets pushed aside. When our client comes and sits down in our treatment room for the first time, they deserve more than an imaginary "cancer" stamp on their forehead.
A Place for Protocols
There is a time and place, certainly, for sticking closely to protocols that we have been taught so that we can deliver a safe massage. I'm a fan of protocols as a place to start.
But I also like principles – general guidelines to use in different scenarios with thought as to how they are applied. These wear better than rigid, inflexible rules. In my book, Medical Conditions and Massage Therapy, I offer principles to follow. One is the Unstable Tissue Principle, which states, "If a tissue is unstable, do not challenge it with too much pressure or joint movement in the area." Tissue can be unstable for many different reasons, but in the "twin clients' case," lymph node removal put them both at risk of lymphedema. (A carefully structured, gentle approach was necessary and it's impossible to describe it fully in a sentence or two.)
There, the clients' similarities ended. The Activity and Energy Principle states, "A client who enjoys regular, moderate physical activity or a good overall energy level is better able to tolerate strong massage than one whose activity or energy level is low." Client A could take more. Not lots more, because of some lifelong changes that can be caused by cancer treatment. But more.
Yet, by themselves, even principles are not enough to go on without good thought, good interviewing and solid hands-on skills for this population and other medically complex scenarios. Neither of the principles above captures the full range of clinical possibilities in people with cancer or cancer histories. That's the point.
We have to step back from the name of the disease, from the so-called "rules," and even from the friendlier "principles." Zoom out and see how the condition presents in this one person, this one individual so different from anyone else. This person living this person's life, not someone else's life. Then, a client receives the massage for the client; not the massage meant for someone else.
This is what we figure into our interview and hands-on work. Instead of one-dimensional, black-and-white rules for massage contraindications, critical thinking, clinical reasoning and interview skills deserve emphasis in massage education and clinical practice.
Some massage therapists can figure out what is needed by reading, self-teaching or prior experience with medically complex populations. But most need training in these skills. Training is just as important for learning what we can do, as what we should not do. That's where the Society for Oncology Massage comes into play. They laid a foundation; now the rest of us don't have to reinvent the wheel.
And there are many other resources out there. On my website (www.tracywalton.com), there are several bibliographies, a blog, and I've put up webinars about massage in cancer care for an intro to the deeper issues at work. For my own education, I read everything on oncology massage that I can get my hands on and I ask my students and colleagues to as well. Unlike 20 years ago, there is now plenty of literature available.
And plenty of clients deserving great, customized care.
Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.
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