Fibromyalgia, lymphedema and cancer are some of the health conditions that particularly benefit from massage. There are various techniques and alternative therapies we commonly use for each of these health concerns, and we are experienced and trained to work with you. But we also ensure that we get to know you and particular needs. We offer a variety of complementary and alternative therapies to help manage these conditions. The following information provides some statistics and resources.
About 10 million people are affected by fibromyalgia; over 80% of those affected are women. Fibromyalgia affects every aspects of the body. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include chronic pain, fatigue, insomnia, fibrofog, swallowing difficulties, bowel and bladder problems, headaches, TMJ, skin sensitivities, vision problems, and impaired coordination — to name just a few. Associated frustration can lead to depression and anxiety.
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed by ruling out other causes in addition to identifying 11 out of 18 tender points in different quadrants of the body that are actively painful. The cause of fibromyalgia is under debate. However, it does seem to run in families or be triggered by a stressful event.
Treatments for fibromyalgia include medications, counseling, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, hands-on therapies and complementary therapies. Massage, integrative reflexology, cranial sacral therapy, energy work, gentle stretching (no heavy weights or repetitions), massage cupping, and acupuncture all help to reduce pain. Choose a healthcare team who is experienced in treating fibromyalgia symptoms. Fibromyalgia is managed, not cured.
Resources for Fibromyalgia:
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome: A Survival Manual. Written by Devin Starlanyl MD and Mary Ellen Copeland MS, MA, this book explains how fibromyalgia and chronic myofascial pain affect many aspects of the sufferer’s life and gives suggestions on how to make life more comfortable. This book, written by people diagnosed with FMS and MPS, is a must-have for all afflicted with these diagnoses.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates that there will be 1,658,370 new cancer cases diagnosed in 2015. According to the National Cancer Institute, the most common cancer in the United States today is breast cancer. More than 234,000 new cases are expected in 2015. The next most common are lung cancer with an estimated 221,200 new cases and prostate cancer with an estimated 220,800 new cases in 2015. Colon and Rectal cancers combined are next with an estimated 132,700 new cases in 2015.
Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the United States and among women worldwide. One in eight women will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. It’s rare in men, but it’s estimated that 2150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. The good news is that there has been a gradual reduction in breast cancer in women 50 and older, which might coincide with the decline in hormone replacement therapy after menopause. There has also been better screening and earlier detection, as well as increased awareness, leading to a decline in deaths from breast cancer.
No one knows the exact cause of breast cancer, but breast cancer is always caused by some kind of damage to a cell’s DNA. Just a small sample of the risk factors for developing breast cancer are drinking alcohol, a family history of breast cancer, aging, hormone therapy after menopause, dense breast tissue and certain benign breast conditions. The American Cancer Society website has a complete list of risk factors.
Inflammatory breast disease is the most aggressive type of breast cancer, and it presents differently. Typically breast cancer is usually first detected by the presence of a lump during self-exam or mammogram. Inflammatory breast cancer is generally seen in younger women and presents with changes in the breast, such as a lump or mass, red, purple, or pink coloration or bruising, tenderness, firmness, enlargement, itching and pain, warm feeling, ridged or thickened skin, enlarged lymph nodes, and changes in the nipple.
Early detection is the key to survival. Performing a monthly breast exam can help identify any changes. Mammograms are 70%-80% effective in detecting breast cancer. However, thermograms are more effective. Even though thermograms are usually not covered by health insurance, they can identify breast cancer long before a mammogram. Non-invasive thermography was approved by the FDA in 1982 and uses Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging.
Another way to maintain breast health is by “Phluffing your girls.” This technique, developed by Cheryl Chapman, is an excellent way to keep the lymph flowing around your breasts.
Most people who develop lung cancer have been smokers, and smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer. But 10 to 15 percent of those who get lung cancer have never smoked. Among those who have never smoked, the risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos and other chemicals such as arsenic, chromium and nickel, as well as a family history of lung cancer.
Symptoms of lung cancer include a cough that does not go away or gets worse, chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing, hoarseness, weight loss and loss of appetite, coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm), shortness of breath, feeling tired or weak, infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back, and new onset of wheezing.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, approximately 220,800 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is often a slow growing cancer. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and a digital rectal exam aid the doctor in detecting prostate cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men should learn about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening and decide whether to receive it. When doctors should begin this discussion varies. It is recommended at:
- Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years
- Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer, including includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65)
- Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).
Treatment and Prognosis of Cancer
The prognosis, or the likelihood that a person will be cured of cancer and what their life expectancy is, can depend on several factors and is estimated by looking at what happened to people in similar situations treated five or so years ago. But everyone is different, and no one knows for sure what will happen. Survival rates improve all the time, so estimates are never definitive. The prognosis can be stated in terms of excellent, good, poor, or can be estimated in numbers of years people survive.
Not everyone wants to hear their exact prognosis. Not everyone wants the same amount of information, but some want to know as much as possible. You have to decide how much information you want based on what will help you in your personal situation.
Many people live with and overcome cancer, and your treatment is very personal and based on various factors. Some treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. You may receive one or a combination of treatments. There are side effects associated with cancer treatments and they can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Massage therapy works to ease your overall health and can be a good solution in tandem with the treatments that your doctor recommends to help ease the burden of the cancer and the side effects of its treatment. We would be happy to talk with you about alternative therapies and modalities that can help ease the effects of coping with cancer.
What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is when a certain type of fluid called lymph accumulates in the body. This fluid is necessary for fluid transport in the body. If the lymphatic system is somehow damaged, through surgery to remove lymph nodes, for example, the fluid will accumulate. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It carries infection-fighting cells to the tissues that require assistance. If the lymphatic system is compromised, the affected part of the body is prone to recurrent infection.
Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema
In your affected arm or leg, the signs and symptoms of lymphedema include:
- Swelling of part or all of your arm or leg
- A feeling of heaviness or tightness
- Restricted range of motion
- Aching or discomfort
- Recurring infections
- Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)
The swelling caused by lymphedema can range from mild to extreme. Lymphedema caused by cancer treatment can occur months or even years after treatment.
How can massage help with lymphedema?
The goal of massage for lymphedema is to move fluid out of the swollen area and into an area where the lymphatic system is working properly. First, the massage therapist will massage the area they want the fluid to drain into, to make space for the fluid from the swollen area. Then they will massage the part of your body with lymphedema swelling.
Lymphedema occurs when one or more lymph nodes have been removed. Lymphedema can occur when only one lymph node is removed and can happen 10-20 years after lymph node removal. Measuring the extremities and ankle, knee, wrist, and elbow joints can provide an indication if the limbs are starting to swell. Contact your doctor right away if you suspect lymphedema. The earlier you get treatment, the more successful you’ll be at reducing the severity of lymphedema.
A lymphatic massage is different than other massages. The pressure is no heavier than the weight of a dime. The technique is stationary, not flowing like a Swedish stroke.
Precautions After Lymph Node Removal:
- Do keep the affected limb clean and moist. This routine keeps the skin from cracking and from possible infection.
- Do notify your doctor if you notice swelling, redness, or increased pain in the affected limb.
- Do avoid injury or trauma to the affected limb.
- Do avoid insect bites.
- Do avoid cutting your cuticles.
- Do use a thimble when sewing.
- Do wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes or yardwork.
- Do use an electric razor when shaving.
- Do avoid sunburns.
- Do wear closed-toe shoes.
- Do wear a medical tag indicating that nothing is to be done on affected limb.
- Do check with your doctor before traveling to see if you need to wear a compression garment.
- Do get up and walk if sitting for long periods of time.
- Do eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water.
- Do NOT have new tattoos.
- Do NOT use sauna, hot tub, or hot packs on affected limb.
- Do NOT restrict lymphatic flow with tight clothing, jewelry, or watches.
- Do NOT do weight or resistance exercises using the affected limb.
- Do NOT lift more than five pounds with the affected limb.
- Do NOT have acupuncture on affected limb.
- Do NOT have blood pressure checked on affected limb.
- Do NOT have blood drawn from affected limb.
- Do NOT give injections on the affected limb.
- Do NOT accept IV’s in the affected limb.
- Do NOT do finger sticks on the affected limb.
Remember…these precautions are for the rest of your life!
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Approximately three to five percent of the population suffers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Anyone who has been a victim of or a witness to a traumatic situation can suffer with this disorder. These situations can include but are not limited to violence, combat, rape, sexual, physical and/or verbal abuse, natural disasters, car accidents and even surgeries.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after any traumatic event. The body senses a threat and the limbic system is activated. Then the amygdala sends an alarm. The hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system. The hypothalamus also releases corticotrophin-releasing factor which activates the pituitary gland which releases adrenocorticotropic hormone which activates the adrenal glands. The adrenals release epinephrine and norepinephrine which mobilize the body into a fight or flight response. Then cortisol is released which inhibits the fight or flight response. For someone suffering with PTSD, a sight, smell or sound may trigger the fight or flight response, even though the event may have happened many years ago.
Symptoms may begin immediately after the event or not until many years later. Some symptoms of PTSD include constantly thinking about the trauma, being on guard/hyperarousal, avoiding reminders of the trauma, nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, panic attacks, chronic pain, headaches, stomach pain, muscle cramps, feelings of mistrust, problems in daily living, substance abuse, relationship problems, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Treatments for PTSD include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, eye movement and desensitization therapy, counseling, medicine, support groups and self care. Self care includes socializing with people, relaxing, exercising, resting, keeping a journal, meditation, prayer, helping others, refraining from using drugs, alcohol, caffeine and limiting TV watching. In addition to traditional therapies, bodywork such as acupuncture, massage, reflexology, energy work, therapeutic touch, cranial sacral therapy, polarity therapy, emotional freedom technique and guided imagery can help a person cope with PTSD symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Massage by itself is not an adequate treatment for this disorder. Consult a trained medical doctor and mental health professional.
The national suicide prevention hotline is (800) 273-TALK (8255)
Find a support group at:
Aging is when you realize you cannot do things the same as when you were younger, you cannot do things as fast as you did, and you cannot do things for a sustained period of time. Seemingly simple day-to-day tasks take longer to complete. Every day, getting up is like starting a car that’s been sitting in the garage for a year.
Just as an idle car needs reviving to start, lubrication to run smoothly and fuel to keep running, so to humans need the same treatment. As we grow older, we have decreased mobility and muscular strength. Our skin is thinner, dryer and less elastic. We may develop osteopenia leading to osteoporosis. Various illnesses may start revealing themselves during this time. Our organs may not be functioning properly. Our senses are diminished and our immune function is not as effective. Chronic stress and inactivity accelerate the aging process. Stress can be caused by loss of function, loss of memory, loss of friends and family, which can lead to frustration, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness.
At one time, massage was considered a way to pamper yourself. As you age, massage can help prevent injury by helping the muscles be more flexible. Massage also releases restrictive muscles allowing freer movement.
Benefits of Massage for the Chronologically-Gifted
- Softens skin
- Improves circulation
- Improves immune system
- Increases energy flow
- Activates the relaxation response in the nervous system
- Reduces muscle tension
- Reduces anxiety
- Improves sleep
- Increases motility in the intestines
- Decreases constipation
- Increases mobility
- Increases elasticity and flexibility (decreases fall rate)
- Improves range of motion
- Relaxes tight muscles
- Increases proprioception (knowing where your feet are)
Types of Massage
Massage for the chronologically gifted is based on each individual’s needs. Someone who is 70 may be as healthy as a 50-year-old. On the contrary, someone who is 70 may seem more like a 90-year-old. Every massage is different, even for the same person. Sometimes the massage is done on a massage table, sometimes in a wheelchair, sometimes in a geri chair, sometimes in a hospital bed.
Location of Massage
The massage can be performed in an office, a personal home, a caregiving facility, assisted living facility, nursing home, adult daycare, hospital or in hospice.
Length of Session
The length of the session can vary from 15 minutes to one hour, depending on the frailty or mood of the client.