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Let the Patient Tell Their Story
Often when a patient presents with an injury, they want to tell their story. People by nature like to talk about themselves, particularly when they're worried about their health.
Thoracolumbar Syndrome: The Great Mimic
The thoracolumbar junction is a common area of joint dysfunction. The most obvious cause is dysfunctional breathing or lack of diaphragmatic breathing. Treating this breathing problem will ultimately be the long-term cure for the syndrome.
Medicalization and Mindfulness
The past several years have seen a veritable explosion of research on mindfulness. Research abstracts we've published in each issue of Health Insights Today under the heading "Mind-Body News" have increasingly reported on studies about mindfulness interventions.
Get Ready For AOM Day
This year, AOM Day 2014 falls on Friday, (October 24th). This is a great opportunity to make your AOM Day celebration or event even bigger by extending it throughout the weekend!
A Commonly Missed Spinal Fixation: The Upper Lumbar Spine (Part 1)
When we think of lower back pain, we tend to think in terms of the lower lumbar spine and the SI joint. These joints and their discs are obviously important. However, we tend to miss fixations that occur just above – in the upper lumbar spine. Three questions come to mind: 1) Why is the upper lumbar spine so important? 2) Why do we miss the fixations here? 3) How can we adjust them?
Uncle Sam Needs You
Scrutiny into the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) continues to grow after efforts to reform the DVA by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, were deemed "a stunning period of dysfunction" by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Rethinking GMO: Less Panic, More Context
Some of you may have noticed that after writing parts 1 and 2 of “Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption” a while back [Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014 issues], part 3 never appeared.
Thoughts to Live By
When speaking to your patients about their health make sure to ponder the following points and have them assess if they are making themselves even more sick by the thoughts they have about life. Are these some of the traits and thoughts that your patients might have?
Healing Community Trauma in Israel and Palestine
It's the beginning of August and Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after a month of brutal fighting. In the last four weeks, 1,830 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
MPA Media Wins Seven Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Acupuncture Today, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecendented seven publishing awards by the ASBPE, the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
Help Secure Our Future by Sharing It
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) conducts one of the most comprehensive surveys of the U.S. chiropractic profession every 4-5 years.
The Science Behind Happiness
Are you happy right now? Whether yes or no, there are a myriad of reasons why you feel that way. A whole academic discipline has developed to find out what causes or obstructs happiness, and how to amplify it.
A Healthy Dose of Failure is Vital to Your Success
As an acupuncturist I tend to see people after they have already suffered for years and "tried everything." They are so desperate for some relief that they want to know everything about how to get better, right now.
If You Get a Request for Records, Respond!
In our previous two articles, we discussed two of the main reasons for denial when chiropractic records are reviewed by Medicare contractors.
News in Brief
NBCE Launches Computer-Based Testing Era; California Chiropractors Get Expanded DOT Exam Privileges; New Jeff Hays Documentary.
History of Animal Acupuncture: Part II
In Part I of this article, I had gone back to 1969 and tried to describe the atmosphere and events of that year that engulfed many of the younger generation, some who were all the core members of the National Acupuncture Association.
When Big Pharma Meets Chinese Medicine
Earlier this year, Bayer made a media splash with their decision to buy the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co., a Chinese TCM manufacturer.
The Problem With Prolonged Sitting
We need to constantly talk to our patients about spending less time sitting and about what can go wrong with poor sitting postures. The fact is we sit too long in repetitive malpositions.
A Glimpse Into China's Top Brain Hospital
The sounds of the city pass through the open window are overwhelming the microphone - car horns, construction machinery - and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
The Truth About Herbs
I appreciate the effort and research put into the article written in the June issue of Acupuncture Today regarding pesticides and Chinese herbs.
Improving Our Political Effectiveness
The November 2014 elections are right around the corner; members of Congress, governors and state legislators are all running. Now is a good time to talk frankly about our overall political involvement.
January, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 01
Help Wanted: A Call for More Oncology Massage Specialists
By Mia Miller, LMT
I am eager to see a dramatic rise in the number of massage therapists specializing in oncology massage. Consider this a call to action. Reviewing Gayle MacDonald's opening to her book Medicine Hands, "As patients travel the road of the cancer experience, they will have pain that the best medications cannot totally alleviate, their self image will be shattered, they will suffer from lost relationships, anxiety about the future and possibly a sore back from lying too long on a gurney." Here, she describes the deep and penetrating unease that is familiar to many with cancer.She doesn't say it exactly but, as a therapist, I see this as an invitation to utilize the power of presence when with a patient to affirm the fact this person we hold is dealing with more than a physical battle, but a threat that is often enigmatic and silent, difficult to share but with skilled touch, capable of being acknowledged and soothed for a time. It's teachers like Gayle MacDonald (through her texts) and Tracy Walton (her class) who have set the tone for much of my practice of oncology massage and encouraged me to use the movement of my hands over a sore back to both ease pain while affirming and celebrating the life of another.
An Early Career Choice
I discovered my desire to work with clients going through cancer when I was still in training at the Swedish Institute in New York, so the seed was planted early on in my career. I was in a clinical strategies class and writing a research paper on Hodgkins Lymphoma when I was introduced to a young lady in her mid-20's, who two years prior received this same diagnosis. She agreed to share her experience with me. During our afternoon together, I came to know better the various forms of psychological and physical distress she'd suffered as she went through treatment; the neuropathy that lingered in her hands and forearms, the weight and hair loss, ongoing GI distress, chronic fatigue and anxiety, poor sleep, hardened shoulders and increasing neck tension. She knew I was finishing up my training in massage therapy and lamented as she said, "I wish I had known I could have been getting massage when I was going through treatment." I heard her aching for the kind of care we can provide.
Within a year, I was in Seattle training with Tracy Walton in order to be clinically prepared to serve this growing population. I was so clear on the efficacy of the work we therapists could do and the need for our inclusion in comprehensive cancer care. After my oncology massage training, I came back to Los Angeles charged and ready to apply all I had been exposed to and to implement the protocols and think through the various options for treatment. I instantly felt I could establish a meaningful rapport with the various intake questions I had learned to ask and the critical pause of giving space for clients to share their difficult experiences. Many clients felt they could open up when asked to share the side effects of chemotherapy they'd been trying to manage or hopeful when wondering, could our work together help them feel less anxious or sleep better later that night?
Taking the Journey
Around this same time, I volunteered at Roze Room Hospice where many of my referrals were at the end stage of cancer, a wonderful plane in which to be introduced to the deeper emotional connection of our work. It seemed serendipitous that most of the children I saw at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles were in the rehab unit with a cancer diagnosis and finding their way to a new normal. The families were often right there during the massage and were sometimes soothed by the work in a vicarious way or able to learn a technique or two from me to try later on. I see how introducing comforting, skilled touch brings families together in a unique way and allows for a way to communicate without traditional dialogue.
Oncology massage allows me to think critically and problem solve, while engaging real nuances of our hands-on work in a way that is very energizing and provocative. I enjoy the need to monitor my pace and pressure particularly when I am establishing a baseline with a first time client. I honor the compromised lymphatic system and work mindfully in quadrants of the body that have even one lymph node removed so as to protect against lymphedema. I approach my work with more attention in several special ways and this benefits both of us. It's wonderful to see clients gain freedom of movement after scar tissue has been realigned or light up as they describe that after reconstruction their tissue begins to feel less and less like a separate part of them. There are countless examples of the many ways we help our clients as they journey through cancer and treatment, these are only a few.
The professional experiences I describe allowed me to get comfortable and gain some initial confidence, but in a strange way I felt I was on a little island. I know this is not unique to providing oncology massage, as many therapists in private practice feel the effects of working alone from time-to-time, but this growing concern of mine was bigger than that. I had this sense there weren't a lot, if any, therapists around me that were laser focused on providing massage for those going through cancer or if there were, they weren't particularly visible or easy to find. I knew that Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City had doctors, patients, therapists, support staff, a whole community dedicated to integrating our manual therapy into the care they provided. This kind of environment seemed ideal and I wanted an equivalent here in Los Angeles. I longed for a community of colleagues as there is power in association.
I was aware of the Society for Oncology Massage (www.S4om.org) and how it serves to link therapists to each other and the wider public. I am very comforted by this organization's mission. I have yet to attend their annual Healing Summit which would certainly allow for networking with others who share this passion. I did decide to look up therapists on S4OM's locator service and called the one lady listed in my area. I met her and we talked over coffee. My resolve continues to solidify with each individual I meet that shares their experience and expertise with me.
While I found my passion to provide clinically sound bodywork in the context of cancer, it became more apparent on a purely practical level, that there just might not be enough of us trained and ready to meet the need. I can't even count the number of hospitals, clinics and oncologists treating cancer in Los Angeles alone and if we consider they need us to support their patients, then my initial conclusion seems obvious; there need to be more of us. As integrative medicine gains ground in our changing healthcare system, we will be in high demand. Clients who have already experienced the healing work we do, offer very specific anecdotal evidence to anyone in earshot. As massage therapists, we know how our work brings equilibrium and relaxation to our clients' body's and minds. I think the power of our skilled touch can have a profound impact, perhaps an even greater concentrated effect when mitigating the symptoms, challenges and side effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
Do you want to be challenged in a new way and increase both your curiosity and compassion as you work? Do you want to transform and improve the delivery of health care with your very own hands? Find an oncology massage certification course today and get started! You will be humbled by your increased ability to serve those in their critical time of need. The very act of showing up for another with a equal portion of skilled touch, clinical reasoning and an open heart will amaze and transform you both. I hope you'll join us as we expand and transform the parameters of caring for others through cancer today and tomorrow.
Mia Miller is a specialist in oncology massage and runs her private practice, Somatic Space, in Los Angeles, Calif. She is a passionate proponent of integrative medicine and a therapist at City of Hope and Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Visit her website: www.somaticspace.com.
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