Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2012

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education PATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVES | BODY AWARENESS | FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY | SOMATIC RESEARCH When we touch a client, what are we exposing ourselves to? What happens when someone who uses a medication designed to be absorbed through the skin gets a massage? Are massage therapists unknowingly picking up unintended doses? To help me address this question, I partnered with Annie Morien, PhD, massage therapist, and dermatology expert, who has clarified some of the finer points of the interactions between skin applications of medicine and massage therapists' hands. Here is a paraphrase of the communication that got this all started: "I work in a massage franchise where Topical Medications Another Occupational Hazard? By Ruth Werner and Annie Morien I see several people every day and the turnover is quick. We take a health history, but it's pretty brief—it's just to make sure everybody is safe. A couple of days ago, I had a client who, halfway through the massage, told me she had just started using a hormone cream to help with symptoms of menopause. She applied it every day to her thigh—which is exactly where I was working at that moment. I didn't say anything at the time, but do I have to worry about excess estrogen exposure now?" Many health-care products are applied to the skin instead of taken by mouth. These can include essential oils, hormones, and prescription pain relievers, among many others. People may use one or more of these products before they arrive for a massage appointment. Since these products are designed to be absorbed by the primary user, we have to wonder whether massage therapists could absorb them as well. To explore this possibility, first we will review the skin's ability to block absorption, 48 massage & bodywork september/october 2012

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