Massage & Bodywork

November | December 2014

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There is undoubtedly a lot to learn before working with this clientele. "Talk with healed veterans, research the potential injuries. Start looking at pictures of wounds to get used to what they look like. I've seen wounds, lacerations, scar tissue, loss of limb, burns, hip fractures, vertebral destruction, arms and legs ripped out of sockets, blindness, deafness, PICC lines, colostomy bags, bandages, metal rods running through their bodies … oh yeah, you've got a lot to learn." While from a practical perspective the work is really no different from what other MTs traditionally deliver to their clients, there are certainly some nuances. For instance, it's important to deliver massage to the missing limb. "You need to visualize the full limb being there," David says. "You literally give that energy to that limb. "If you hit a spot that's scar tissue, go into it. If it's too painful, go lighter. Don't be afraid of getting into that tissue. If we make it different, then it becomes different. And they don't want to be different," he explains. David says it's critical to do an exhaustive intake, talking with clients for 30–60 minutes before touching them the fi rst time. Some clients may still be on high doses of pain medications— have them list all their medications, making sure you understand the effects of each one, and check in frequently when they're on the table. Find out if their doctors have cleared them for massage, but don't turn away those who haven't yet asked. Do, however, use common sense. If the client has a PICC line, you obviously stay away from it. The same goes for an open wound or freshly formed scar. However, David has worked on several of these clients the same day as their surgery. Instruct clients to speak to their medical case managers and ask if there are any contraindications for them receiving massage or bodywork. "When Paul was shish-ke-babed with metal rods going through his left leg, I didn't go anywhere near it until the rods came out. His entire left leg was rebuilt. Not until the rods came out and he got permission from his doctors did I start working with it." Satisfaction Unlike Any Other Working with wounded warriors provides a satisfaction unlike any other, David says. "It satisfi es my passion for helping people. And it's one of the most fulfi lling, rewarding, and enriching activities I do in my life." What you get back in return is tenfold. "There is an amazing camaraderie," David says of his wounded warrior clients. "I'm humbled by these people. It's an amazing feeling to know that you've helped them." The wounded come and go from David's client list as they transition out of Walter Reed and make their way back home. "Their main task is to get done at Walter Reed and get back home," David says. "My job is to help them do that." Karrie Osborn is senior editor at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. Contact her at For more information about David Kupferschmid's work, visit his website at DAVID'S HEROES David Kupferschmid, shown here assessing Lance Corporal Paul Shupert's scar tissue, says his job is to help these heroes get home. Photo by Shy Shorer. Get Involved VA Facilities Directory ash=1 National Center for PTSD US Department of National Veterans Affairs CAUSE Wounded Warriors Project

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