Massage in hospitals

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Integrative Medicine. Could Massage be the first step.

In November 2004 I attended the first international conference in New York, USA, of the Society of Integrative Oncology (SIO) and noticed with delight that complementary and alternative therapy had become CAM- complementary and alternative medicine.

The conference consisted mainly of presentations of scientific research on herbs using standard laboratory techniques such as western blot gels; acupuncture trials on specific cancers and the debate on how to do ‘double blind’ acupuncture experiments. Also included was massage for people with cancer in an out patient setting and as part of the medical treatment offered in oncology wards.

Massage techniques and it’s efficacy were of the most interest to me as Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, one of only two specialist cancer hospitals in America, had recently completed a 5 year trial, the results of which were published in the esteemed medical journal Cancer. This research is being held as the gold standard in the medical community in its advocateship of massage for people with cancer.

This November in San Diego, USA, the SIO conference didn’t even debate massage for people with cancer. From my observation it now seems to be an accepted practice and almost every hospital represented at the conference either had a massage unit in full swing or were creating one. A notable exception for me unfortunately, was the only Australia hospital represented. Disappointingly, the Australian oncologist in residence at this hospital is not as yet even contemplating developing a massage facility.

I believe there is a growing need to extend the existing services available in Australia (which are?) to both therapists and clients, and catch up with world best practice. In both America and the United Kingdom, massage is offered in progressive oncology units in both government and private hospitals from the diagnosis of cancer onwards.

(Eleanor, have we got more detail we can share with our readers so they get an understanding of the work that is being done in hospitals overseas. So we can get an understanding of what the model is?)

Over the past four years I have been developing a network of specially trained massage and Bowen therapists to work with people living with cancer. There are now 65 qualified therapists in Australia and New Zealand and the Quest for Life Foundation has adopted Massage Cancer and More as a core program at the centre, which will begin in February 2006.

Massage Cancer and More is a course for qualified Bowen and massage therapists who have a minimum of 2 years experience. The course teaches both the scientific and therapeutic elements of working with people facing the challenges of cancer, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and current research regarding treatments and diagnostic procedures available within the medical model.

Massage Cancer and More also looks closely at the 4C’s (what are these please), the principles of spontaneous remission, and how this work for clients and for the therapist (don’t get what this means Eleanor – more explanation please?. Advances in the understanding of complementary and alternative therapies generally are also studied.

I believe that Massage Cancer and More meets only a small part of the needs within the oncology and massage community. As we continue with the Massage Cancer and More training program our hope is to use the teaching program, expertise and industry insights gained over the past four years to spearhead a much bigger program. Massage in Hospitals (MiH) is an ambitious project and it requires funding to get government accreditation, pay the costs of the project/development team and fund travel for our New Zealand team member. The people involved in the development of MiH are leaders in their field within the CAM profession.

Deborah Yardley
Deb is a member of the NZ Charter of Health Practitioners and has qualifications in massage and Lymphodema management and has been a therapist for 12 years. Deborah became a massage therapist following a vital episode in her life when she almost lost her life to pancreatitis.

Deb runs a busy clinic in New Zealand where her staff offer seated massage in the work place (a first when she introduced this scheme) as well as NZ Cancer Council funded massage and Lymphodema treatment for people with cancer.

Leonie Dale has a Master of Nursing with Merit from Sydney University and completed her massage training in 1990. Since then Leonie has advanced her skills in lymphatic drainage, aromatherapy and Reiki. Leonie is an accredited massage teacher and has worked in a Western Sydney college for several years. 

Elsebeth Perry is a Sydney trained massage therapist with over 15 years experience. Elsebeth specialises and teaches lymphatic drainage massage at Nature Care College in Sydney and runs a busy clinic in Canberra and the Southern Highlands. Elsebeth is currently undertaking Lymphatic Drainage teacher-training in America and is the first massage therapist to be ‘invited’ to do this course - all before her have been medically trained practitioners.

Eleanor Oyston
I was trained in Medical Technology at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney; Diagnostic Cytology at King Edward Women’s Hospital in Perth with Professor Barter (the first professor of cytology in Australia) in the 1970’s and went into development neuroscience research at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU in 1984. I started massage school in the mid 1990’s, studying Bowen therapy at the same time as I started work with the Quest for Life team in 2000. My heart is in the co-ed cancer program at ‘Quest for Life’ and the Neuro Recovery Pathways program.

I am passionate about offering massage to everyone who seeks it and teaching massage therapists how to work with systemic diseases, not just cancer.

This is truly an exciting time in the world of natural therapies and massage, and I believe that with open hearts and minds we can develop health services, CAM, second to none and the envy of most other countries on the world. Complementary and alternative medicine, integrative oncology is only a beginning.

Contributed by: Eleanor Oyston

































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