Therapeutic massage-- topic of original research

It sometimes feels odd to me that I still ''need'' to prove the value of massage as a healing art. Each day, I open my office doors, and we, Sharon and I, see ten to 12 people a day, averaging 150-160 clients a month. We have a database of almost a thousand clients who return again and again. They come for relaxation, stress reduction, relief of migraine headache, low back pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia-like symptoms, sport and other kinds of injuries and a variety of other maladies that plague the average individual from time to time.

So why would I care? I certainly don't have anything to prove to anyone with success like that. Actually, I think it stems from several things, my overly analytical mind, my background in traditional medicine as a nurse but mostly from my curious nature. I find myself asking why does one simple therapy have such positive effects on so many and varied kinds of ailments? In reality I've stopped asking myself that question as often-- too many times the answer lies in my ''intuitive body'' that doesn't talk the kind of black and white language this analytical mind can process! Thus, when I come across the kind of study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine it's worth sharing.

A study was performed on a total of 113 hospitalized patients at The University Hospital, Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. Results were tallied by patient perceptions of their responses to massage as well as the healthcare providers' perceptions of patient responses to massage. Of the questions asked, patients responded 71-98 percent positively to these categories: ability to move around; increased energy levels; relaxation; sense of well-being; faster rate of recovery and positive mood change. The health care professionals responded positively 57-86 percent in their evaluation of the patients' mobility, energy levels, relaxation, sense of well-being, positive change in mood, and decreased levels of discomfort. The article ends with a dissected discussion of the benefits of massage, (which traditional medicine seems to do best and I might add is sometimes very necessary) that massage therapy as an in-house intervention reduced the need for external treatments such as medications for pain, sleep, and anxiety, and therefore proved to be a cost-effective tool in health care management.

Discarded in today's high-tech world of medicine, massage is one of the oldest forms of treatment for human ailments, used by the ancients, described by Hippocrates as ''valuable for treating a variety of ills, from sprains to constipation.'' Today, the most common form of massage used was popularized in 1812 by Swedish-born physician Peter Henry Ling.

Once used by nurses, massage was a traditional therapeutic practice in the hospital routine. The evening back rub brought relaxation, sleep and comfort to patients weary of lying in bed. With the advent of high-tech nursing and bare bones staffing, massage was discarded as time consuming and unnecessary. ''The therapeutic use of the hands is an act that we have all but forgotten in this scientific age in our adulation of things mechanical, synthetic, and frequently, antihuman,'' notes nurse Dolores Krieger. Krieger, the founder of the sometimes controversial method of massage known as Therapeutic Touch, and the cornerstone of The American Holistic Nurses Association.

The article goes on to say that the patient entering the hospital environment is a stranger in a foreign culture and massage is a way to create an atmosphere of caring, compassion and nurturing, and invited greater participation in the healing process. Yet some argued that the value of massage therapy is questioned because of its transitory nature. Is anything in this life permanent? Does the pain pill or the anti-inflammatory drug not have to be repeated?

How does this study of hospitalized patients relate to the need for massage in the everyday world of John and Jane Q. Public? Do we not some days, most days, in this high-tech and sometimes foreign world of stress and anxiety need the touch of the human hand that conveys warmth, comfort and reassurance? Do we not all deserve a good night's sleep, more relaxation and a sense of well-being?

At last, we're beginning to see the value of therapeutic massage integrated with the high-tech therapies of this new age. Massage therapy programs, whether hospital-based or private practice, offer promise in reclaiming touch and massage as a legitimate and essential element of health and healing.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website July 6, 1999

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