Massage & Bodywork

SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019

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64 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k s e p t e m b e r / o c t o b e r 2 0 1 9 Some people use stress as motivation and recover quickly. For example, my 14-year-old client once rated her stress very high on a 0–10 scale. I was worried, and I asked her about it. She wisely said, "Not all stress is bad. I like school. Basketball is fun. But grades and winning are stressful." Others dwell on their problems and are consumed by stress. Stress can be dangerous when the source becomes relentless, chronic, or feels like an attack. That's when health problems can occur. Some known problems associated with stress include: 3 • Accelerated aging • Alzheimer's disease • Asthma (which triggers shallow breathing) • Depression and anxiety • Diabetes • Gastrointestinal problems (heartburn, reflux, and irritable bowel syndrome; worsens ulcers) • Headaches • Heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart attacks) • Obesity • Premature death Clients with a family history or early sign of these conditions may be motivated to keep those conditions at bay and will commit to a series of sessions. Short-Term Client Goal Example Increase my ability to recognize when I hold my breath or breathe shallowly as a stress response every day and implement my deep breathing homework exercise at least once a day within two sessions. Exacerbating Old Injuries In addition to striving for well-being and reducing the risks of stress-related illness, goals can be centered around chronic limitations or potential exacerbations of a client's injury you originally treated. To limit future reoccurrences, encourage your clients to maintain their pain-free experience by coming in bimonthly or monthly for massage. Long-Term Client Goal Example Avoid exacerbations of injury by receiving massage every 2–3 weeks and stretching legs and low back 4–7 days a week, keeping pain no higher than a 2 out of 10 for the next 60 days. Benefits of Massage and Bodywork There is a strong association between stress and disease. Psychosocial stressors influence both mental and physical disease and, interestingly, psychosocial treatments can ameliorate both mental and physical disorders. 4 (Note: While the research referenced does not define psychosocial treatment modalities or mention massage therapy, we can consider how massage and bodywork might affect stress. One way to measure our success is by setting goals and documenting outcomes.) There are many benefits of massage and bodywork beyond pain reduction and increased function. In a retrospective study, results of dozens of research papers on a variety of complementary and alternative (CA M) therapies were combined. In particular, the researchers studied comments collected in a short-answer format that were not reported in the primary research articles published. Upon review of the comments, the researchers began noticing a common thread in the answers to the open questions placed at the end of each feedback form. Questions such as "Have you changed the way you think about your back pain as a result of having received (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic)?" and "What effect, if any, has (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic) had on you?" were asked. 5 In general, the most common responses included: • Dramatic improvements in health or well-being • Improvements in physical conditions unrelated to pain • Increased ability to cope with pain • Increased ability to relax • Increased body awareness • Increased connection of mind, body, and spirit • Increased energy • Increased sense of control over health • Increased sense of well-being • Positive changes in emotional state Given the beautiful litany of benefits directly out of the mouths of research participants, we can safely focus goals on the outcomes listed above— the outcomes that matter most to people. 6 We are often tempted to talk about the benefits of massage therapy in terms of how it works. The truth is, we don't really know. As Tracy Walton wrote in her article "Myths and Truths About Massage Therapy: Letting Go Without Losing Heart," there isn't enough research to tell us that massage elevates endorphins or increases circulation. There is enough research to say massage doesn't decrease lactic acid, however. So, when enrolling clients in a series of sessions, avoid promising results we may not be able to prove—like detoxifying their system— and stick to outcomes we can speak confidently about. Long-Term Client Goal Example I will be able to get into a relaxed state of mind at least once per day, 5–7 days per week, and I will maintain it for at least 30 minutes within six sessions.

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