Massage & Bodywork

January | February 2014

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education PATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVES When Massage Therapy Creates an Adverse Effect By Ruth Werner Most people wouldn't argue with the idea that massage therapy has many benefits to offer clients. However, if we're going to make the statement that massage is powerful enough to cause positive outcomes, then we also need to recognize that it is powerful enough to cause some negative outcomes, too. Indeed, some states' licensure laws rely on evidence of potential harm, rather than on evidence of potential benefit, to make the case that regulation is in the public interest. MASSAGE IS GOOD, RIGHT? Exactly what benefits massage therapy has to offer, and the mechanisms that bring them about, are issues we are still exploring. Acute and chronic pain management (regardless of the cause of pain) is one of the things we do best, and strong evidence points to massage therapy as a useful strategy in dealing with anxiety, depression, and some musculoskeletal issues like injured muscles, strained tendons, and various forms of arthritis. In addition, human beings have an innate need for welcomed touch. In the United States, there are very few contexts in which it is considered appropriate: greetings and goodbyes, grooming, health care, and sexuality. No wonder we love the idea of receiving prolonged, educated, nonjudgmental touch! 44 massage & bodywork january/february 2014 WHAT IS AN ADVERSE EFFECT? An adverse effect, or adverse event, is any harmful or undesired outcome. It can be minor, like mild soreness the day following a massage, to catastrophic and life-threatening, like fragmenting a deep venous thrombosis and creating a pulmonary embolism. Failure to achieve a positive outcome is not an adverse effect, however. Every health-care intervention has the potential for an adverse effect, and the more invasive an intervention, the higher the risk. A patient might go into surgery for a well-established procedure, like knee replacement for instance, and develop a blood clot or an infection that could unexpectedly end his life.

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