Body Sense

Summer 2011

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often view their post-physical- therapy bodywork session as a reward for their hard work. I would suggest that the distinction between indulging in a massage as a treat and using it for stress relief is pretty fuzzy. And as someone who has made a career out of studying where massage fi ts for people dealing with chronic and acute illnesses, I can say with confi dence that the line between massage for stress management and massage for a medical condition is practically invisible. The central point here is that massage is a powerful health- care modality, regardless of whether it is being delivered in a spa, a franchise, a home, or a clinic. THe role of mASSAge There aren’t many health-care professionals who regularly spend an hour of completely focused summer 2011 time and touch on the well-being of the person in their care. Dental hygienists and surgeons come to mind … and of course, massage therapists. Which of these would you most prefer to spend time with? The unique position massage therapists hold as professional, educated “touchers” sometimes puts us in interesting positions. We have some clients who feel that because we are providing a treat— an indulgence—and not health care per se, it’s not important to let us know that they are taking antibiotics for a sinus infection, or that they have a new and mysterious rash on their arm, or that they’re nervously waiting for their biopsy results. On the other hand, we have some clients who, because we have some education and a lot of compassion, and because they have our undivided attention for a full hour or more, feel we can help them deal with serious health issues—that we can suggest a treatment for that sinus infection, or diagnose that pesky rash, or assure them that their biopsy will be OK. I recently had an interesting conversation with a woman who is both a nurse and a massage therapist. She said that in her experience, the people under her care in the hospital often have less complicated health issues than the people at the resort where she does massage. This is because the hospital patients’ health profi les are fully documented and prioritized, but resort visitors are sometimes looking for a type of care that is out of the scope that massage therapists can provide. I once wrote an article about massage for patients of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Several years later, I got a letter from a woman whose mother had just been diagnosed with this condition—a serious disease, with many possible complications, that Body Sense 3

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