kailua massage therapist

Massage and the Cancer Patient – The Courage of Touch

Like most attorneys, Jo Anne Adlerstein is a fiend for the kind of research that can make or break a case. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 1998, she used her research skills to find out all she could about how to fight the disease that invaded her body.

“What I found is that despite the fact that I live near New York City and have been to the top doctors throughout, each doctor — the surgeon, the hematologist, oncologist and the radiation therapist — is concerned with getting rid of your cancer cells,” Adlerstein said. “The other parts of your body and the other parts of healing are not necessarily part of their agenda.”

Adlerstein’s research led her to massage therapist Cheryl Chapman — someone who did have holistic healing in her agenda. What research didn’t tell Adlerstein was that many bodyworkers, even as recently as a decade ago, would have turned her away. For years, massage and bodywork was contraindicated for cancer patients. Massage schools, mostly fearing that bodywork could spread cancer, largely taught their students to avoid working with cancer patients. The notion is still pervasive in the bodywork community.

“I think it’s very common to hear this idea that it’s absolutely contraindicated,” said Christopher Quinn, D.C., president of the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Colorado. “There is such a variety in the levels of massage therapy training in the country that we’re a long way off from not only the information being standardized, but the competence and the level of training being standardized as well.”

Quinn likens the misinformation over contraindication to the old days of sports coaches, who not only advised athletes not to drink water during activity, but also gave them salt tablets. It’s similar with massage therapists. “Unless it’s something therapists do or specialize in, they may not retain that knowledge base,” he said.

But as the field of massage therapy matures, its knowledge base expands. And thanks to schools such as Quinn’s and therapists/teachers such as Chapman and others, the notion that massage is contraindicated for cancer patients is changing. There are still hurdles to overcome. How massage therapy fits into traditional insurance or managed care coverage is a gray area. And old attitudes about contraindication die hard.

But massage and bodywork are increasingly important weapons in the fight against one of the most prevalent diseases in America today. Therapists seeing clients with cancer tout the many benefits. It reduces stress and relaxes patients. It bolsters the immune system and helps remove toxins from the body. It helps with circulation and restores energy. It reduces pain and minimizes the effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. It enhances a patient’s body awareness and allows them to direct energy toward healing. And in cancer patients who will die from the disease, it can help ease their final days and hours. Massage therapy is becoming an important arrow in the quiver of those treating cancer patients. The evidence covers a wide spectrum of massage therapists and bodyworkers.

Hospitals are integrating massage therapists into teams of doctors and health professionals. Therapists in private practice are getting the training they need to be able to see patients recovering from cancer or in treatment. In hospice settings, bodyworkers are providing comfort to terminally ill patients and their families. Schools are rethinking the blanket statement that massage is contraindicated for cancer patients and are developing programs to give bodyworkers the specialized training they need.

Researchers are beginning to explore the relationship between massage and cancer patients. And books such as Gayle MacDonald’s Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer are helping guide bodyworkers into previously uncharted territory.

These are positive trends, both for cancer patients and the bodywork community, for the need is great. Cancer is the second most prevalent killer of Americans, behind heart disease. The American Cancer Society estimates that 563,100 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year, more than 1,500 per day. Nearly 5 million Americans have died from cancer this decade. The statistics are grim, but there is a silver lining. An increase in early detection and improved treatment means that cancer is no longer a death sentence. More people are surviving and living with cancer, about 8 million in the United States today, which means a greater role for bodyworkers.

That role is getting the approval of organizations such as the American Cancer Society, which now views massage therapy as an important complementary therapy for cancer patients, although not one to specifically treat the cancer, said Terri Ades, RN, the society’s director of health content.

“We know that massage therapy makes everyone feel better, whether they’re ill or whether they’re healthy,” Ades said. “It is becoming more prevalent in the health professional community.

“There are more people surviving cancer than ever before. I see the complementary therapies as an important component of helping the person improve their quality of life. Oncologists are becoming much more aware of the importance of complementary therapies.”

Despite the evolution in knowledge and attitudes, the blanket contraindication is deep-seated among bodyworkers. No one is quite sure from where it came. Most guess it had to do with the mistaken idea that massage could either cause cells to break off from tumors and migrate to other parts of the body, or that increased lymphatic activity – resulting from bodywork – promotes the spread of cancer cells. Bodyworkers are cautioned against working the sites of tumors, but as MacDonald writes in Medicine Hands, “The more the medical profession understands how cancer spreads, the more apparent it is that previous fears about massaging people with cancer are unfounded.”

Although researchers are still looking at how cancer occurs, most evidence points to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. These same factors heavily influence how cancer cells spread. Malignant cells spread in two ways — they migrate directly to the adjoining site of tumors or metastasize and spread to distant sites. The potential for metastasis in any individual is similar to how cancer occurs in the first place — it is driven by genetic factors that are inherited or environmental factors that are acquired.

While cancer cells do travel via the lymphatic system, MacDonald writes that “many oncologists fail to see how comfort-oriented massage would contribute to the spread of cancer.” Massage does not increase lymphatic circulation any more than any of a number of day-to-day activities. If increased circulation led to increased spread of cancer cells, doctors would warn patients against any activity at all, which they clearly do not.

The pendulum that is swinging away from contraindication toward working with cancer patients travels with a variety of cautionary notes. It is not a simple matter of what was once discouraged is now fine. The process of metastasis, or how cancer cells travel through the lymph or blood vessels, is not completely understood. As with any foray into relatively uncharted territory, it is wise for bodyworkers to learn from those who came before.

TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE VISIT  Massage & Bodywork magazine, December/January 2000.

Massaging your Pets

As some of you know we are big animal lovers! When I first started massage, we had an elderly dog with bad arthritis and was told he was not going to be walking much longer. I started working on him every day and was astounded at the results! He even started to run again. That was our Dusty who lived to be 15.

Pets are no different than we are in that they respond to diet and alternative therapy much the same way. Massage is a great alternative healing therapy for pets using the power of touch and can have both physical and psychological benefits. The active manipulation of muscles and skin incfeases circulation to all the organs and tissues in their body. If your dog is suffering from muscle tension or conditions like arthritis or hip displaysia massage can help increase range of motion, enhance muscle tone, and remove toxins and metabolic waste from medications and diet. It has been also revealed in studies to increase your pets lifespan.

Most importantly it will help reduce pain. Whether its a condition or injury, massage will help your pet recover faster with less pain and stress.

You only need about 10 minutes a day to give your dog a massage. Use a flat palm to slowly touch all the parts of your dog’s body. Really focus on what you are feeling and pay attention to all the layers, from hair through skin, fat, muscle, and down to bone. Meanwhile, Liverlover is basking in the attention and loving the extra “petting.” However, there is more to these massages than just quality time together.

  1. Pick an areas with minimal distractions. Don’t face walls or corners where they night feel trapped.
  2. Choose a calm time of the day when neither of you is rushed.
  3. Put your pet on a soft blanket or towel.
  4. Your first massage is a good time to take assessment of what your pet likes and doesn’t like. Try different pressures and avoid areas the pet may not like.
  5. Doing this also allows you to pay attention to any changes in the pets body which can be life saving. While you feel around” you can look for any heat, swelling, bumps, lumps, or painful spots.
  6. You want to look for signs of discomfort, anxiety, and not complying.  If your pet is pulling away from your touch, flinching, or tensing up, or keeps looking at you when you touch a spot then that means your touch is uncomfortable and wants you to stop.
  7. Remember what feels good on you will probably feel good on your dog!
  8. Start by using the flat palm of your hand, and just touch them in spots and hold for a few minutes. This calms them down and get them ready for your touch.
  9. Most dogs love soft ear rubs, and ling scritch strokes under the chin.
  10. Your strokes should closely resemble petting. A light gentle touch that moves along their body. Make sure your strokes are slow, even and controlled.
  11. The Effleurage technique is a good technique. If you have been a client of mine you might know this one. You use one hand after another in long, gliding strokes. Try varying your pressure from light to moderate pressure. Go down the length of the body and this really helps the circulatory system.
  12. You can also try slowly and gently stretching your dogs legs by just recreating the natural motion of going forward and back but with a slight stretch.

Your dog will most likely have a puddle of drool going now, which is a sign you are doing good!

If you are a client and have any questions feel free to ask at your next appointment!  Here is a video of one of our fur babies the day we found out her tumor was benign. Enjoy!


lomi lomi massage kailua

Lomi Lomi Massage

Lomi lomi massage is a  Hawaiian healing tradition.  Massage Therapists use various tools from the palms, forearms, fingers, knuckles, elbows, knees, feet, even sticks and stones. Lomi Lomi combines the use of prayer (pule), breath (ha), and energy (mana).

Traditionally in ancient Hawaii lomilomi was practiced:

  • As a healing practice of native healers
  • As a luxury and an aid to digestion, especially by the ruling chiefs
  • As restorative massage within the ohana or family
  • By ʻōlohe lua ( Hawaiian martial artists)

Lomilomi helps to spiritually unblock you, enhance your well being and aid in healing chronic diseases.

Traditionally LomiLomi was performed with prayer and intention.

Creator Hawaiian kupuna (elder) Auntie Margaret Machado describes lomilomi as “praying” work.

“When a treatment is to be given, the one who gives the treatment first plucks the herbs to be used.  He prays as he picks the herbs. No one should call him back or distract his attention, all should be as still as possible for they do not want the vibration broken. They knew the laws of vibration. They knew the power of the spoken word. They knew Nature. They gathered the vibration of the plentiful.”

Massage Therapists who offer Lomi Lomi:  Mary McHugh and Kristin Chir (Kailua Massage)

The Effects of Swedish Massage Therapy on Hormones

Massage is used for many health purposes, but little is known about how it works on a biological level.

A recent study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine examined the effects of one session of Swedish massage therapy—a form of massage using long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration, and tapping—on the body’s hormonal response and immune function. Funded in part by NCCAM, researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, randomly assigned 53 healthy adults to receive one session of either Swedish massage or light touch (in which the therapist used only a light touch with the back of the hand). Both interventions lasted 45 minutes and were performed by a licensed massage therapist. Blood samples taken before and after the sessions were used to determine blood levels of certain hormones and circulating lymphocytes (white blood cells). The researchers found that participants who received Swedish massage had a significant decrease in the hormone arginine-vasopressin (which plays a role in regulating blood pressure and water retention) compared with those who were treated with light touch. No significant differences between the two groups were found for the stress hormone cortisol or in circulating lymphocytes. Significant decreases in proteins called cytokines (interleukin 4 and interleukin 10), but not others (interleukin 1 beta, interleukin 2, interleukin 5, and tumor necrosis factor alpha), were found for the massage group compared with the light touch group. These preliminary data led the researchers to conclude that a single session of Swedish massage produces measurable biological effects and may have an effect on the immune system. However, more research is needed to determine the specific mechanisms and pathways behind these changes.


Additional Resources

5 guestions to ask you massage therapist

In order to confirm your prospective massage therapist’s qualifications and ensure that your massage therapy will benefit your health needs, consider asking him or her the following questions:

1. Are you licensed to practice massage in this state?

The state of Hawaii regulates massage therapy profession. Depending on the state, this regulation comes in the form of a license, registration or certification. Also, some local governments may have some form of regulation.

2. Are you a member of any Massage or Business Associations?

Professional massage therapists demonstrate their competency through being part of associations relevant to their profession or business.  It demonstrates commitment and good business sense as well as a certain transparency to the community about who they are and what they do.

3. Where did you receive your massage therapy training and did you graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation?

To ensure that your therapist has had proper training,  the AMTA recommends you find a graduate of an accredited program.  This makes sure the massage schools they attended offers rigorous training and possess qualified faculty and proper equipment.

4. How many hours of initial training did you have?

AMTA suggests that your massage therapist has completed at least 500 hours of training, which is also the standard for most states that regulate the massage therapy industry.

5. Are you trained in any specific massage modalities?

The various types of massage are termed massage modalities. Each massage and bodywork modality requires specialized training. While some massage therapists use just one or two types of massage, most employ a variety of techniques in their practice.  Finding a therapist who is experienced in the modality you need, will ensure that you get more from your sessions.