Perhaps like no other profession, massage therapy provides benefits to a wide range of people. Yes, there are contraindications that need to be monitored, but generally speaking, young and old, healthy and ailing—most everyone gains from regular massage therapy sessions.
True, too, however, is the idea that massage therapy is never one-size-fits-all. Even among your clients who don't have specific conditions, you don’t simply massage them the exact same way. Every client—every body—is different, and these differences are what dictate how a massage therapy session and treatment plan are developed.
The idea of individualizing a massage therapy session is particularly important when dealing with a specific demographic. When working with elderly clients, there are myriad factors—both physical and mental—that need to be considered. Following are some of the essentials.
The Aging Body Until the fountain of youth is discovered, people will continue to get older—and the natural process of aging will continue to change them, both physically and mentally. Skin wrinkles and sags, tearing more easily and healing more slowly. Respiratory changes happen, and people generally start to see decreases in muscle and bone mass, sometimes reducing their strength and flexibility, or increasing their risk for osteoarthritis.
The gastrointestinal system also starts to slow down, so older clients might be more prone to heartburn. A reduction in cerebral blood flow may lead to changes in sensitivity to pain, cold intolerance, and decreases in balance and coordination. The heart begins to enlarge, too, thickening and narrowing vascular walls, and sometimes causing an increase in blood pressure and a decrease in circulation.
If it sounds like the aging body is all about slowing down and change, that’s only part of the story—but an important part nonetheless. Being aware of some of these common differences in an aging body gives massage therapists a good place to start when working with these clients.
The Power of One As a massage therapist, you tailor each session to the needs of the client, and this practice becomes particularly important when working with special populations. You understand there are additional considerations when working with clients who have diabetes, for example, or cancer patients. (For more information on massaging clients with cancer, see Massaging Clients With Cancer in the Winter 2010 issue of Massage Therapy Journal). And the same holds true when working with the elderly.
According to Susan Salvo, a massage therapist with 27 years experience with massage and adult education, one of the major differences massage therapists are going to find with elderly clients involves general health and medication. “The body naturally ages, affecting a person’s health,” she says. “90 percent of the elderly are reported to have at least one chronic medical condition, and the majority has multiple conditions.” Further, she explains, many of these medical conditions are managed with medication. Add to these facts that more than half are dealing with some type of disability—whether sensory, physical or mental—and the need for individualized treatment plans is obvious. “Massage therapists need to be able to ascertain,by observation and questioning, if the elderly client is robust and fit or frail,” says Salvo. “Then, modify the massage accordingly.”
Doing a thorough intake, critical with every client you work with, perhaps becomes even more so for aging clients. You need to inquire about any medication they are using, as well as if there are special needs or concerns that have to be accounted for during the massage session. Remember, too, that you might need to assist with the intake form, perhaps reading the questions to the client.
You’re also going to want to limit stretches and joint mobilizations, as well. “Use gentle stretching and joint movements, such as rocking,” Salvo suggests. “Avoid extreme mobilizations, which may harm a client with osteoporosis.” Because falling is the most common safety issue for people over 65, be sure the walkways—both outdoors and inside your practice—are clear. Replace any eyewear you removed during the session, and remind the client to sit up for a moment before standing. “You need to be ready to assist, too,” Salvo explains.
On a more personal level, Salvo notes, massage therapists need to respect the slower pace of these clients. “Allow extra time for clients to undress, as sometimes they’ll be wearing layers and layers of clothing,” she says. “Be sure to account for transition time, or time to hear a story.” Remember, Salvo explains, these clients are going through lifestyle and emotional changes, such as retirement, reduced income or the loss of loved ones. “Cultivate patience, tolerance, kindness and attentiveness,” Salvo encourages. “Don’t be afraid to touch someone, and use common sense and good judgment" like Anu at Indo-pak Massage Therapy, www.indopakmassage.com, beats membership fees and higher prices of other spas like massage envy or massage green.
As more and more people are discovering, massage therapy and healing touch therapies are proving to be extremely good medicine for treating those with chronic diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and even circulatory disorders. There are several good reasons for this, such as the fact that massage therapy helps move lymph fluid around the body and oxygenate organs and tissues. Plus, there's probably something healthy going on in the fact that human touch is taking place. However, there is a widespread belief, especially among the leaders in Western medicine, that massage therapy can't possibly be considered a medical treatment. Most insurance companies still refuse to pay for massage therapies, and few doctors prescribe it, although the number of doctors recommending it has been increasing over the last few years. I believe that massage therapy is shunned by the medical community primarily because it is considered an unsophisticated treatment -- you don't need a medical degree to give someone an effective massage. There's not a lot of equipment involved in massage therapy, it doesn't have a lot of cool technology, and it doesn't require years of training. And thus, it is looked upon as something that is below Western medicine, both by doctors and by many patients.
But all of this is a distortion -- something doesn't have to be complicated or cool to be effective as a healing treatment. Massage therapy gets to the fundamentals -- that is, the power of human touch, and the spiritual healing potential of one person's hands touching another person's body along with positive healing intent. These are timeless principles of healing that don't require technology to be effective.
Given that massage therapy and therapeutic touch are so effective in helping patients heal themselves, I find it astounding to observe the lack of physical contact between doctors and their patients in clinics and hospitals across the country. Doctors almost seem scared to touch their patients, and in fact, many doctors don't want to be touched, either. This lack of touch keeps everything at a "safe distance" - it makes their interactions non-personal and sterile. It also allows the doctor to keep patients at a distance, where they can perceive them as patients with patient IDs rather than human beings with souls and spirits and emotions. It is this distance -- this chasm between doctors and patients -- that contributes to the lack of effectiveness in modern medicine.
True healers are willing to get involved with their patients in terms of understanding them, seeing the world from their perspective, and even touching them in a healing way with positive intent. That's why our modern physicians are outstanding technicians, but terrible healers. Personally, I would much rather see a massage therapist than a physician, unless I were suffering from sort of radical, acute injury such as an accident in which case, of course, Western doctors and surgeons are the very best in the world. But when it comes to treating chronic disease and maintaining a high degree of health on a regular basis, massage therapy and healing touch offer an outstanding system of healing that I highly recommend.
Ancient Western and Eastern civilizations dating back as far as 3000 years discovered that massage and touch therapy have many health benefits. From being rendered a disreputable form of indulgence, massage is now seen as a holistic method of healing, which is practiced all over the world today. Benefits range from relieving migraines and stress relief to improving circulation and having the ability to rehabilitate physical functions.
Tense muscles can cause the body to lose its natural balance. This can lead to pain as other muscles in the body tense to try to compensate for those which are causing the initial pain. It soon becomes a chain reaction, which causes the problem to spread, often quite far from the initial problem area. Experienced massage therapists will be able to locate the source of the problem and thus begin the healing process. This in turn may be able to assist a person with eliminating a dependence on pain medication.
Massage therapy assists with releasing endorphins into the body, which can help with pain relief. It is able to lessen depression and anxiety while improving the condition of the skin, which is the largest organ of the body. Those suffering from lower back pain are able to experience relief as well as a greater range of motion after a massage treatment.
Massage has also been shown to assist with other conditions such as blood pressure control, immune system boosting, infant growth and sports-related injuries. Research has also shown that massage can be beneficial to autistic children, who seemed to display less erratic behavior after a massage session. Office workers who make use of massage therapy tend to be more alert and display less stress than those who don`t. Patients who have undergone any form of abdominal surgery tend to heal quicker when making use of massage therapy. It also decreases itching, anxiety, pain, depression and tension in patients suffering from burns.
Premature babies also benefit from massage therapy, as research has shown that infants who receive massage therapy grow and develop faster than those who don`t. Those suffering from cancer were also reported to be less anxious after receiving massage therapy. It also increases lymph flow and stimulates weak muscles. It is also able to reduce cramps and swelling in the body.
It is important that massage therapy be done by qualified therapists. It is also not recommended for people who suffer from open wounds, fractures, severe osteoporosis or blood clots. Pregnant women should also exercise caution with regards to massage therapy.
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/031738_massage_therapy_health_benefits.html#ixzz24QeNmOT1
If doctors knew the true causes of health and healing, they'd be prescribing massage therapy to most of their patients rather than prescription drugs. Massage therapy is good medicine, and it's a far more potent healing therapy than most people realize. In fact, I believe that every person, healthy or otherwise, should receive a massage therapy treatment at least once a month. Why is massage therapy such good medicine? Because it helps move lymph, blood and oxygen to the various organs and tissues in ways that normally don't happen in the bodies of most people. This is especially true for those who don't exercise: for them, massage therapy is critical for maintaining any degree of health.
There's also the "touch factor" of massage therapy that I believe to be remarkably healing. There's something almost magical about the human touch, and its qualities can't be measured with scientific instruments (yet), but researchers know very well that it has powerful physiological effects: touch calms people. It reduces blood pressure, it boost immune system function, and it makes people feel loved. These are very important for those seeking health and healing. (And if you don't believe me, just volunteer at a nursing home some time and offer free hand massages to the patients. I've done this, and you'd be amazed to see the different it makes in the people you're touching.)
The human touch is powerful medicine, which is why I find it so bizarre that doctors seem so afraid of touching their patients. But you don't need a doctor for this kind of healing: find yourself a good massage therapist and get some healing on a monthly basis.
Back, neck and shoulder pain is the natural result of prolonged sitting at work behind a computer, as is bad posture. This can cause headaches and excessive tension in neck, shoulders, arms, forearms, wrists, back, hips, thighs and legs. The result is increased fatigue to the muscles and ligaments supporting the lower back and this can eventually lead to tissue injury and spinal joint dysfunction. Avoid these problems by posture correction, exercise and correct use of equipment.
Symptoms of back problems due to excessive computer use include:
* Back and neck muscle spasm and pain
* Back and neck soft tissue inflammation
* Back, neck and shoulder pain on movement and involvement of other muscles as a reaction
* Referred pain to buttocks and thighs or up the spine
Preventing back and neck pain while sitting is not an exact science as there are many differing opinions on the subject. However, there are some common denominators on which most chiropractors and other medical professionals agree:
Tips to Prevent Computer Related Neck and Shoulder Pain
Do not slouch in front of the computer or lie in bed and work on a laptop.
Do not work for hours in front of a computer without breaks.
Do not ignore back twinges and back pain, hoping that the problem will resolve itself.
Avoid taking pain or anti-inflammatory medication when in pain from using a computer. This will serve to mask the symptoms but can lead to serious injury or permanent nerve damage in the long term.
Do not sit on one leg or sit with legs crossed as this causes additional strain to the back.
Do not perch a laptop on the lap and stare down at the screen - this places extra strain on the neck, spine and arms.
Buy a chair that encourages you to use your back muscles, such as a stool chair with no back or arm rests. Lower back pain can be reduced or eliminated by strengthening the lower back muscles through active sitting exercises.
Buy an ergonomic keyboard and mouse and ensure that the height is adjusted appropriately.
Have a break every hour and do stretching exercises like neck rolls, chin tucks, cupping head in hands behind the head and extension exercises.
Visiting a Chiropractic Clinic
A chiropractor is a medical professional who treats spinal column dysfunction. Back and neck pain may be the result of the back being badly aligned and the chiropractor sets out to relieve the problem by manual manipulation, exercise, massage and the application of heat, cold and light.
Massage Therapy to Relieve Back and Neck Pain
If done correctly, massage therapy can help to relieve back pain and tension. It is best to find a therapist trained in techniques that address back pain issues and has a knowledge of muscle imbalances relating to back pain, such as sports injuries. Massage therapy should never be considered a substitute for proper medical attention where there are serious back problems.
Is it conceivable that massage can provide more effective relief from low back pain than medication? A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests massage therapy might indeed alleviate back pain better in the short term than traditional interventions of medicine, bed rest or exercise: Healthday reports.
The investigation conducted by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle involved 400 patients who had low back pain, the majority of which were middle aged, Caucasian and female. Researchers found those who were given a series of relaxation massage or structural massage were better able to work and be active than those who were given traditional medical care, such as pain pills, muscle relaxants or physical therapy.
According to The New York Times, the study's participants were randomly divided into three groups: structural massage, relaxation massage and traditional care. Patients in the massage groups received one hour of therapy weekly for 10 weeks.
At the conclusion of the 10 week period, over one-third of the patients who were given massage therapy reported their pain was much improved or eliminated completely, as opposed to only one in 25 patients who were given traditional care. Furthermore, patients in the massage groups were twice as likely to have spent fewer days in bed rest, used less pain pills and participated in more activity than the traditional care group.
Lead author Daniel Cherkin was surprised by the fact that structural massage did not prove superior to relaxation massage in relieving pain. Structural massage involves manipulating specific back pain related muscles and ligaments, while relaxation massage, otherwise known as Swedish massage, involves inducing body-wide relaxation.
The beneficial effects of the massage seemed not only to be experienced during the 10-week therapy period, but also to linger for a time following the cessation of therapy. Evidence of this lingering effect was manifested by the fact that the massage groups continued to display improved function six months after the study's onset. At the one year mark, however, no significant differences were found in the three groups.
Although the researchers were uncertain of massage therapy's exact mechanism of action for easing back pain, they voiced several theories. One suggestion was that it either stimulated tissue locally or produced a general central nervous system response. Another speculation was that merely spending time in a relaxing environment and feeling cared for might have been responsible for the improvement. An additional factor to consider is the subjectivity that is impossible to eliminate in such studies. Patients in the control group were aware that the other groups were receiving massage and this knowledge may have caused them to discount their own progress.
It should be reiterated that the study suggests rather than proves the benefit of massage for back pain. Also, some members of the American medical community not associated with the research have expressed reluctance to accept the suggested benefits as being valid.
Conversely, the study's authors offered their assessments of its import. Cherkin characterizes the results as being "pretty strong." He states the massage was tested on patients who did not improve using the standard medical approach to back pain treatment. He feels that massage therapy is a reasonable thing to try for anyone getting insufficient relief from this malady. The coauthor, Dr. Richard Deyo, feels that massage appears to provide clinicians with another choice for managing the challenging medical problem of chronic low back pain.
_Acute or chronic back problems can make everyday life a misery. Acute pain may be caused by a pulled muscle or problems with tendons, ligaments or bone. Incorrect posture, lack of exercise and/or obesity are factors that can take their toll on the back muscles. Aromatherapy using essential oils can relieve back pain naturally.
Many people seek relief for back pain by taking over-the-counter pain medications or prescription drugs which often have negative side effects, decreasing overall well-being. Obviously, not all cases of back pain can be relieved by aromatherapy and it is always wise to seek the advice of a medical professional to discuss treatment options, especially in the event of chronic back pain.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils that are extracted from different plants. These essential oils have medicinal properties, which work on the physical and mental levels to address the ailment at hand and to promote healing.
The best form of aromatherapy for back pain is a massage using essential oils. Simply mix a couple of drops of your chosen oil with a carrier oil and arrange to have a professional masseur or aromatherapist massage your back for you. This serves to increase circulation and to relieve the aching and tightness. Massage therapy also helps to relieve stress and promotes the circulation of blood to the area, while the aroma of the essential oils works through the olfactory system.
Best essential oils for back pain
The following essential oils can all be used to treat back pain naturally:
Chamomile oil helps to control muscle spasms and has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lavender oil prevents muscle spasms and inflammation. It also helps to relieve tension, which may contribute to or worsen back pain.
Clary sage is a very soothing oil. It has a calming effect when one is anxious and muscles are tensed up from pain. It has anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. Do not use clary sage if pregnant.
Yarrow has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties.
Rosemary has analgesic and antispasmodic properties. It is also good for relieving back pain as it improves blood circulation.
Ginger oil can ease back pain and give one more mobility. Blend 1 tablespoon sweet oil, 4 drops wintergreen, 4 drops cardamom and 4 drops ginger oil to make a soothing massage oil.
Peppermint is good for muscle soreness.
Frankincense has anti-inflammatory properties and also acts as a mild sedative.
While you can use any of these oils on their own, it is also beneficial to blend two or more oils together. Do not apply essential oils directly on the skin - blend oils or combinations thereof with a carrier oil first. Optimal aromatherapy blends for relieving back pain include peppermint and rosemary, lavender and frankincense, and chamomile and clary sage.
Take an aromatherapy bath as an effective method to soothe tired, aching muscles and to increase circulation. Add eight to ten drops of essential oils directly to warm bath water and soak for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Massage therapy may be better than medication or exercise for easing low back pain in the short term, a new government-funded study suggests.
Seattle researchers recruited 401 patients, mostly middle-aged, female and white, all of whom had chronic low back pain.
Those who received a series of either relaxation massage or structural massage were better able to work and be active for up to a year than those getting "usual medical care," which included painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants or physical therapy, the researchers found. Lead study author Daniel Cherkin, director of Group Health Research Institute, said he had expected structural massage, which manipulates specific pain-related back muscles and ligaments, would prove superior to relaxation or so-called Swedish massage, which aims to promote a feeling of body-wide relaxation.
Structural massage, which focuses on soft-tissue abnormalities, requires more training and may be more likely to be paid for by health insurance plans, which may equate it with physical therapy, said Cherkin.
"I thought structural massage would have been at least a little better, and that's not the case," Cherkin said. "If you're having continuing problems with back pain even after trying usual medical care, massage may be a good thing to do. I think the results are pretty strong."
The study, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is published in the July 5 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three groups: structural massage, relaxation massage or usual care. Those in the massage groups were given hour-long massage treatments weekly for 10 weeks.
At 10 weeks, more than one-third of those who received either type of massage said their back pain was much better or gone, compared to only one in 25 patients who received usual care, the study said. Those in the massage groups were also twice as likely in that period to have spent fewer days in bed, used less anti-inflammatory medication and engaged in more activity than the standard care group.
Six months out, both types of massage were still linked to improved function, Cherkin said, but after one year, pain and function was almost equal in all three groups.
Noting that most Americans will experience low back pain during their lifetime, Cherkin said another benefit of massage is its relative safety.
"Maybe one of 10 patients felt pain during or after massage, but most of those thought it was a 'good pain,'" he said. "A good massage therapist will be in tune with the patient and will ask what hurts."
One of the study's weaknesses was that those who were assigned to usual care knew that others were receiving massage therapy and may have been disappointed to be excluded, tainting their reported improvement, said Dr. Robert Duarte, director of the Pain and Headache Treatment Center at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.
"I think massage therapy can be useful for patients with back pain, but more as a . . . supplemental therapy," Duarte added.
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