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Treating Beyond Pain
More often than not, when a patient presents to the office, it is for a pain complaint. Headache, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel... The pain is often the focus of the patient's mindset, and they don't often have any thought of what comes after the pain.
A Well-Kept Secret: 5 Element Acupuncture, Part II
Supervising acupuncture interns at a TCM college, it has always struck me how funny it is to hear the clinic manager tell the patients that the Five Element clinic specializes in treating emotions, as if patients with physical pain have no emotions!
Managing Tibialis Posterior Tendon Injuries
The tibialis posterior is the deepest, strongest and most central muscle of the leg, with fibers originating from the tibia, fibula and interosseous membrane.
Synergy Doesn't Happen in Silos: Acupuncture in Hospitals and Other Healthcare Settings
As acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine continue to intersect and integrate with biomedical approaches, the conversation about integration expands and becomes richer.
God and the Chiropractor
My wife went to church last Wednesday night and brought home a CD of the pastor's message. As she handed it to me, she said, "You should listen to this; you'll like it." Our family regularly goes to church and our faith plays a major role in our lives.
TCM Congress in Rothenburg is Largest in Western World
In the medieval town of Rothenburg, deep set within the Bavarian countryside in Southern Germany, the TCM Kongress Rothenburg each year draws around 1.200 participants from more than 40 different countries to attend the biggest TCM conference in the Western world.
Will You Be an Amplifer or a Mute?
These times are changing, and changing quickly. There have been many challenges to this profession throughout the past few years. The challenge is to talk, then talk and talk some more about this medicine.
Older Patients, Stroke Risk and Manipulation
The first population-based study in the United States to evaluate stroke risk following spinal manipulation – and the first involving older adults – suggests that "[c]hiropractic cervical spine manipulation is unlikely to cause stroke in patients aged 66 to 99 years with neck pain.
The Dietary Supplement Research Dilemma
I do not care what the truth is, one way or another; I just want to know it. And when it comes to dietary supplements, the truth can be hard to find for a number of reasons.
Keep Seniors Safe: Age-Proofing the Home
I want to give Dr. Claudia Anrig kudos for her Dec. 1, 2014 column, which highlighted safety issues youngsters might encounter in the home.
Viewpoints: Massage Reduces Nonspecific Shoulder Pain, Improves Function
While seemingly universal, pain and stiffness in the shoulders can be a significant cause of disability. Often a pain that does not go away on its own, shoulder complaints tend to linger, sometimes for 12 months or longer.
The Way We Are Designed: A Conversation with Gil Hedley, PhD
I was first introduced to the work of Gil Hedley by Tom DiFerdinando. He gifted me Gil's DVD series.
Treating GERD and Incontinence: Focus on Trigger Points
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is defined as the regurgitation of stomach acid in the esophagus. Previously, it was thought that GERD was caused by a hiatal hernia, but recent trials suggest the cause is an inability of the hiatal sphincter to contract normally.
Recreational Cannabis Use and TCM
Many people are drawn to cannabis for its effects physically, mentally and emotionally. Medically, cannabis has some legitimate uses, however the scope of this article is limited to the recreational use of cannabis.
There Really is No Room for Sexism
Recently, Matteo* (a transgender male) approached me during a break in an advanced shiatsu class in Berlin where he was one of two men in a group of 20 women. "Pamela. Don't forget to remind the translator to include male endings."
How We Can Help the Injured Brain
The majority of patients with mild traumatic brain injuries recover within seven to 10 days. If concussion signs and symptoms continue beyond seven days, the diagnosis changes from acute concussion to post-concussion syndrome.
Striking a Blow to the Medical Monopoly
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v Federal Trade Commission.
News in Brief
ACA Exec. Vice President Out, Acting EVP In; F4CP Executive Director Retires; New ED Named.
An Excerpt from TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Jamie Wu. TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics was released in 2014 by People's Medical Publishing House.
Converting More Patients to Your Practice
In 2013 and 2014, the theme was "the money is in the list." This meant that if you had a big email list, you were really making some "cha-ching." Unfortunately, having thousands of emails doesn't equate to thousands of dollars in profit.
The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biopsychosocial and Ecopsychologica Medicine
Chinese medicine speaks of alignment between humans, heaven and earth. It is a complex view with a focus upon relationship. These are comprehensive ideas with no specific terms in contemporary medical practice.
Pain Is Only a Piece of the Puzzle
More often than not, when a patient presents to the office, it is for a pain complaint: headache, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel, etc.
Joint Supplements for Athletes (Part 2)
A fairly recent discovery in nutrition supplemental medicine has proven to be a breakthrough in maintaining athletic joint health. Research suggests a combination of undenatured type-II collagen and tetrahydro-iso-alpha acids helps revitalize joint function and performance in athletes.
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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