With the growing evidence that massage and other forms of bodywork and energy therapies are beneficial complements to traditional healthcare, we’ve seen an exponential increase of integrative programs within conventional medical services. From doctor’s offices to major hospitals, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is being used to attenuate symptoms in a variety of conditions, from cancer to everyday maladies such as headaches.
Humans are creatures of habit, and one of our most enduring habits is the way in which we move our bodies throughout the day. Generally, we move without even thinking about it. This can be a good thing, in that we don’t have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. But moving mindlessly, without conscious body awareness, also allows us to perpetuate dysfunctional movement patterns that can negatively influence our health and well-being.
Porter Shimer, in his book New Hope for People with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers, gives a tongue-in-cheek view of the dementia caregiver’s role with this proposed ad — “Wanted: Someone to spend an average of 100 hours a week to oversee the physical and emotional well-being of another human being. Expect frustration, depression, rejection, occasional abuse, and chronic fatigue. No benefits, no vacation, no room for advancement, and no salary.
Chances are you either have a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or you know someone who does. The devastating impact of Alzheimer’s and related dementias on our American society is steadily growing. The Alzheimer’s Association puts the number of people currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (the most prevalent dementia) at 4.5 million, double that in 1980. As life expectancy increases, so does the rate of those afflicted — 1 of 10 by age 65, 1 of 2 by age 85.
Our bodies have no hidden agenda, they’re not like politicians,” says stretching guru Richard Rossiter. “They want to tell you what’s happening so you can correct it.” Rossiter is a bodyworker on a mission. His goal? Fewer people on the operating table and more people on the floor stretching away their pain.
In our previous column, we discussed the results of several studies from Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Fla., showing positive effects of massage therapy on immune function, anxiety, and depression in subjects diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Similar results have also been documented by TRI researchers for breast cancer patients, expanding the potential application of this modality to support and enhance healing in life-threatening illnesses.
Over the past two decades, reports on the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic have been splashed across our newspapers and delivered to us by newscasters in daily doses. Although the initial shock has worn off for many Americans, the epidemic is thriving with devastating impact in poor, developing countries. Take a moment to consider the following information released by the United Nations (U.N.) in its 2004 global report.
At the age of 15 months, Jennifer Hartley was scalded by hot water, receiving third degree burns over the lower 56 percent of her body. “My mother was 17 years old and was giving me a bath in the kitchen sink when she momentarily stepped out of the room,” Hartley says. “In that brief moment of time, I turned on the hot water.” Within seconds the damage was done.
It’s a calling, a commitment, and a challenge, but it’s not for everyone. Massage for cancer clients has moved from the “no-touch” zone to center court, bringing with it an increasing number of compassionate, dedicated therapists. But there is a caveat to this trend. Although the bodywork profession, supported by scientific research, now provides a wealth of modalities to soothe, rehabilitate, and renew hope in those enduring the ravages of cancer, it’s not a matter of simply putting hands to skin.