Do you remember your first massage? Maybe someone gave you a gift certificate for your birthday and that’s what first brought you to your massage therapist’s door. Maybe the promise of pain relief had you consider therapeutic massage as an option for the first time. Or, maybe it was a quest for renewed health and “balance” that prompted your initial venture into the world of bodywork.
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.
The “unknowns” of energy medicine are the aspects that make it seem unusual, unique, and — unquantifiable. The very things that make the work profound are also the things that have kept much of the medical establishment at arm’s length on this side of the world. Now, as science is slowly proving out what energy practitioners have always known about their work, traditional medicine is gingerly extending its hand. Will it be welcomed?
“Mary” is a 90-year-old client of mine who suffers from diabetes. It has left her legally blind and has significantly compromised the circulation in her legs. She has had one hip replaced and, because of her poor eyesight, has regular caregivers. Otherwise, she is a vital senior, interested in the world, nature and literature, who is a delight to be with. So, it was a surprise upon my arrival for our weekly massage session that I found her in a great deal of pain from a fall she’d had two days prior to my visit. She had fallen against her wood-burning stove and had cracked her pelvis.
Two years ago, researchers Patricia Sohn and Cynthia Loveland Cook surveyed nurse practitioners (NPs) in Missouri and Oregon to assess their knowledge and use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The results of their study, published in a 2002 Journal of Advanced Nursing, revealed that while respondents appeared to embrace CAM on a large scale, a much smaller number actually based that acceptance on formal education.
Psychological and neurological complications in patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation were decreased when given massage therapy, according to research published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (Jan/Feb 2003). The study included 88 subjects, 27 of whom received massage therapy, 31 Therapeutic Touch (TT) and 30 in the control group who received a friendly visit. The massage and TT sessions were administered by qualified nurse volunteers with at least one year of experience and given every third day for 30 minutes.
Long before Therapeutic Touch became a popular adjunct to Western medicine, shamans of the ancient Americas were healing the sick with the laying on of hands. They used their hands to cleanse the body, to remove heavy energy and to restore physical and spiritual balance. They used chants, drumming and singing to align themselves and their patients with the energy spirits of earth and heaven.
We all have natural energetic healing abilities. My earliest recollection of this came from my mother Margaret. Whenever my brother or I had a “booboo,” she would rub it with her hands, and if it was really serious, kiss it. Somehow it always made us feel better. Of course neither she nor I understood about energetic techniques, but I learned from these experiences that touch could make people feel better.