The Blog

Massage benefits post-surgical mastectomy patients

neckstretch.jpgA Mayo-Clinic study published in the April 2012 issue of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing found benefits of massage on pain, anxiety, and overall well-being for post-surgical mastectomy patients.  The research also suggests that oncology nurses consider approaching massage therapy as a valuable non-pharmacological way to treat pain in their patients.  It should be noted that the massage was not given over or near surgical sites.  Yet another wonderful reason more massage therapists should be trained to work in hospitals, as well as understand and promote the benefits of their work!

October 22, 2014 Comments Off on Massage benefits post-surgical mastectomy patients
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Meditation for chemotherapy

The purpose of this meditation is to release toxic qi from the internal organs after they have been affected by chemotherapy.  From Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy by Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson.

Posture: Seated
Breathing: Natural, inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth
When: 3 x a day, before breakfast, at sunset, and before going to bed.
Technique:
Sit comfortably in a chair, spine gently lifted. both feet on the floor, hands folded over the Lower Dantien.  Calm, center, and connect.  Feel the Earth supporting the weight of your body, feel Divine white light enveloping, protecting, and purifying you.  Set the intention with words or thoughts to release any toxic energy from your body.

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Begin by directing your attention to the Liver and Gall bladder organs.  Every time you inhale, visualize and feel the cool color green entering into the Liver and Gall Bladder.  As you exhale, release any toxic hot green color from the Liver and Gall Bladder.  Repeat for 18 breaths (2-3 minutes) or until the Liver and Gall Bladder organs no longer feel hot or toxic.

Next direct your attention to the Heart and Small Intestine organs.  Every time you inhale, visualize and feel the cool color red entering into the Heart and Small Intestines.  As you exhale, release any toxic hot red color from the Heart and Small Intestines.  Repeat for 18 breaths (2-3 minutes) or until the Heart and Small Intestine organs no longer feel hot or toxic.

Next direct your attention to the Spleen and Stomach organs.  Every time you inhale, visualize and feel the cool color golden yellow entering into the Spleen and Stomach.  As you exhale, release any toxic hot yellow color from the Spleen and Stomach.  Repeat for 18 breaths (2-3 minutes) or until the Spleen and Stomach organs no longer feel hot or toxic.

Next direct your attention to the Lungs and Large Intestine organs.  Every time you inhale, visualize and feel the cool color white entering into the Lungs and Large Intestines.  As you exhale, release any toxic hot white color from the Lungs and Large Intestines.  Repeat for 18 breaths (2-3 minutes) or until the Lungs and Large Intestine organs no longer feel hot or toxic.
Next direct your attention to the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder organs.  Every time you inhale, visualize and feel the cool color blue entering into the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder.  As you exhale, release any toxic hot blue color from the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder.  Repeat for 18 breaths (2-3 minutes) or until the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder organs no longer feel hot or toxic.

Finally, inhale, visualize, and feel the opalescent multicolored healing light of the divine entering your body’s tissues and cells.  As you exhale, imagine and feel the divine healing light ripple and resonate outward from your tissues and cells into the room, filling the surrounding space with this divine healing light.  Repeat for 18 breaths.  Close and offer gratitude in whatever way feels appropriate.

June 9, 2014 Comments Off on Meditation for chemotherapy
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Healing color meditations

In medical qigong, specific color meditations are prescribed to strengthen the patients tissues and cells.  This is especially important during chemotherapy treatment, as many of the tissues and organs are in an extremely deficient state.

This meditation works with the Kidney energy in the body, which supports the bladder, reproductive organs, bones, and immune system.  The Kidneys relate to the Water element and the colors black and dark midnight blue.

Practice 3x per day, 15 min. each session to strengthen the Kidneys.

1.  Sit in a chair with both feet firmly rooted into the Earth.  Lightly close the anal sphincter, keep the spine straight, and place the tongue on the upper palate.

2. Relax and imagine that you are sitting in front of a calm, deep, dark blue pool of still water.  Towards the left, the moon is slowly rising, reflecting a great luminous light upon the deep dark pool of water.

3.  Imagine and feel a dark blue luminous mist ascending from the deep pool and encircling your body.  Inhale, and feel the dark blue luminous mist enter into your Kidneys, bringing health and healing.

4.  Exhale any toxic, stale Qi.  Imagine and feel that the dark blue luminous mist is being absorbed into the tissues and glowing brighter and stronger within your Kidney’s after each inhalation.

The more you are able to engage all of your senses and emotionally connect to the dark blue healing light, the stronger your qi experience will be.

June 9, 2014 Comments Off on Healing color meditations
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Hand Massage for Cancer

This video demonstrates a gentle hand massage protocol that can be used by caregivers to give a a safe massage to people going through cancer treatment. Topics addressed include benefits of massage, safety considerations, hand hygiene, relaxation techniques, and a basic hand massage sequence.

May 29, 2014 Comments Off on Hand Massage for Cancer
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Massage benefits for neuropathy

One of the troubling side effects of some chemotherapy treatments is the tingling, numbness and pain in the feet or hands that is called Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN).  It can cause loss of balance, sensation and grip, and can be a main factor in having to stop treatment early.  It is not known why some people quickly develop the condition while others remain protected or why some people’s neuropathy subsides after treatment, while others’ may persist for months or years post-treatment.  There are no proven methods to reverse this condition.

However, massage has been shown to reduce the pain and unpleasant sensations associated with CIPN as well as increase circulation, which offers the possibility of lessening the toxicity associated with the nerve irritation and injury.  A protocol for reducing symptoms associated with CIPN would include weekly massage sessions, as well as 20-30 min. daily foot or hand self-massage, working as deeply as possibly without causing any pain. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy supports massage and provides a resource for people looking for more information on this condition.

December 14, 2013 Comments Off on Massage benefits for neuropathy
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Pre- and post-surgical qigong meditations

Here are two qigong meditations from Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson’s text Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy: Vol. 5.  The first serves to prepare the patients’ mind and tissues for surgery.  The second is used post-surgery to facilitate healing and reduce energetic stagnation in the tissues.

Exercise #1: Pre-surgical qigong meditation

Purpose: Strengthen the body and prepare the mind/emotions for surgery

Posture: Standing, sitting, or laying

Technique:  First, direct attention to the Liver organ and imagine divine light filling the organ, regulating the blood, and smoothing the energetic flow of qi throughout the body.  Continue this meditation for 10 breaths. With each exhale, release any emotions of anger or frustration.

Next, direct attention to the Heart, and imagine divine light empowering the heart to maintain proper blood circulation and calm the mind.  Continue this meditation for 10 breaths.  With each exhale, release any emotions of anxiety and nervousness.

Then direct attention to the Spleen and imagine that divine light energy helps to control the blood and hold the internal organs firm within their position in the body.  Continue this meditation for 10 breaths.  With each exhale, release any excess thought and worry.

Then begin to focus on the Lungs, and imagine that divine light energy is supporting the respiration and regulating the qi of the body.  Continue this meditation for 10 breaths.  With each exhale, release the emotion of grief and loss.

Then, direct attention to the Kidneys and empower them with divine light energy to fill with healing energy to support the entire body.  Imagine that your Kidneys are rooting and grounding your body’s energy. Continue this meditation for 10 breaths.  With each exhale, feel the energy in your Kidneys becoming stronger.

Finally, imagine divine white light energy surrounding and submerging the areas which are about to undergo the operation.  Feel the area becoming energized, along with the Lower Dantian or abdomen area.  Feel any energetic and emotional attachments to the diseased tissues begin to dissolve, providing an acceptance of the surgical procedure and a final closure.  Lay hands gently over the Lower Dantien or abodomen area for several breaths to close.

Exercise #2: Post-surgical qigong meditation

Purpose: Clear trauma and energetic stagnation at the site of surgery

Posture: Standing, sitting, or laying

Technique: Imagine that your fingers and toes are straws.  As you inhale, imagine divine white light energy flowing from the Heavens and Earth into the fingers and toes, filling the specific area which has been traumatized by the surgery.  While exhaling, the imagine any pathogenic qi leaving the tissues and body via the fingers and toes.  Continue to perform this cleansing meditation for several minutes until you feel that the specific area has been purified.  Repeat several times a day.

December 14, 2013 Comments Off on Pre- and post-surgical qigong meditations
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Oncology massage training

Just back from a 4-day oncology massage seminar and clinic with the incomparable Isabel Adkins at the Massage Therapy Institute in Davis, California.  It is always an amazing experience to be around other practitioners devoted to this work and excited about the growth of this new field in clinical massage therapy.

Isabel Adkins is an authority on the integration of Chinese Medicine and acupressure with traditional Swedish massage modalities.  Her classes provide education not only in comfort-oriented massage, but also how to tailor a session to fit the unique needs of the client with cancer or a history of cancer.  Also, on a personal level, she is just this warrior woman, who blends compassion with telling it like it is in a way that feels truly authentic and inspiring.

The last two days of class we worked on cancer patients from the community.  The feedback was great- we literally had clients walking out of the clinic with a bounce in their step, when just an hour before, it had been an effort for them to make it to the table.

For more information on oncology massage and training programs:

Massage Therapy Institute

Society for Oncology Massage

December 14, 2013 Comments Off on Oncology massage training
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We are the medicine

I have spent the last 3 months working in a chemotherapy infusion center of a local hospital.  It has been a profound experience and has given me much insight into the details of treatment for those with cancer or autoimmune disorders.

I have become familiar with cycles, side effects, paperwork and scheduling, and the long waits that are the routine for those in treatment.  But more than that, I have become familiar with the people, with the stories, with the laughter, and sometimes with the tears.

As I sit with patients, massaging feet or hands or tense shoulders I hear all their stories.  The stories about shocking diagnosis, the lives of children and grandchildren, the often painful side effects of treatment, and the families that the patients want to be strong for.  It is sometimes raw, and it is always real.

And in the moment of massage we both become present- their bodies relax and receive, and my mind settles into meditation and peace.  Every once and awhile, the room dissolves and there are no more IV machines beeping or easy listening radio.  There is just us, making a connection.

It is strange because, yes, I have been taught many techniques for massage and I’ve learned my anatomy and contraindications; but at the end of the day what I am doing is so unbelievably simple.  I am just offering calm and compassionate touch.  Sometimes I think my most valuable professional skill is being calm.  Because there is magic and medicine in calm, especially when the entire cancer experience can be surrounded by a sense of frenzy.

Simply giving permission to rest can give the body/mind/heart what it so desperately craves- a place of calm, a refuge, a sanctuary.  That sigh of relief in a patient triggers my own, and I fall deeper into stillness, and the feedback loop continues.

This is much less than rocket science.  Just as we can spiral out of control by the energies of fear, panic, and aggression, so too can we spiral back into control using slow, gentle healing touch.  We can be this medicine for each other, Nature’s and human’s first and often most overlooked medicine.

November 6, 2013 Comments Off on We are the medicine
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Massage and lymphedema: what you need to know, pt.2

Massage can be a wonderful, healing experience in the hands of a knowledgeable and well-trained therapist.  Unfortunately, dealing with complicated health histories and clients with cancer is not something most massage schools teach in their basic education.  This is something that has to change, for both the safety of clients and for the liability of spas and massage clinics.  Through my studies in oncology massage, I was shocked to learn that massage therapists can actually cause lymphedema by working the tissues too aggressively in an area that has been compromised by lymph node removal or damage.

There are no statistics on this, as we are just getting the first anecdotal reports, but it makes sense that as the population of people with a history of cancer grows, so will the unintended consequences from therapists who are not trained to adjust their work accordingly.  Imagine this scenario, a woman with a history of breast cancer and lymph node removal that has been 10 years in remission and has resumed all of her normal activities goes to a spa to get a deep tissue massage.  She has been getting deep tissue massages for years and always feels great afterward.  This time, while on the table, she lets her arms hang off the sides for 30 minutes, compressing the lymph flow. Then, the therapist does some deep work on the bicep, angling all of the strokes towards the axilla where the nodes had been removed.  Her muscles feel a little sore, and there are some red marks on her arm, but she feels relaxed and goes home.  The next day, her arm and hand start to mildly swell, and that is the start of a chronic lymphedema issue.  Remembering from the first post, all that is needed to cause lymphedema is a lymphatic load (like one that may happen during a massage, or vigorous activity, or cut that causes an infection) that exceeds the transport capacity of the lymph system.

That is why there is such a great need to educate both massage therapists and clients, so that they can take the easy precautions to avoid this type of scenario.  First of all, know that deep tissue massage is not contraindicated in all areas of the body, only the quadrant which was affected by the lymph node removal.  So if a client has had lymph nodes removed from the right axilla, the right arm and right upper trunk will need light pressure, but the rest of the body it will be fine to do deep work (provided there are no additional contraindications).  As massage clients, always ask if your therapist has been trained to avoid lymphedema, never allow a massage therapist to let your arm compress and dangle off the side of the table if you have had lymph nodes removed or radiated, and make sure that the therapist knows of any medical devices, medications, or previous surgeries that may affect how deep the therapist should work.

For a massage therapist in your area who is trained in oncology massage, take a look at the Society for Oncology Massage’s Therapist Directory.  The benefits of massage for people with cancer or a history of cancer is enormous, but massage therapists must also learn how to “do no harm” so that we can claim our rightful place in integrative and compassionate health care.

November 6, 2013 Comments Off on Massage and lymphedema: what you need to know, pt.2
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Integrative oncology resources

An excellent resource for both practitioners and patients is the Society for Integrative Oncology. Founded in 2003, they are a nonprofit, multi-disciplinary organization of professionals dedicated to studying and facilitating cancer treatment and the recovery process through the use of integrated complementary therapeutic options. Such options include natural and botanical products, nutrition, acupuncture, massage, mind-body therapies, and other complementary modalities.

Of particular benefit for patients are links to all of the integrative oncology programs in the county, a listing of current clinical trials, and blog posts by a variety of practitioners in the field.

November 6, 2013 Comments Off on Integrative oncology resources