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The Role of Massage in Healthcare and Medical Centers

By Brian Acton

  Massage can be much more than a way to de-stress or relax. While it certainly fulfills that function, massage therapy is increasingly viewed as a very beneficial complement to traditional healthcare. In fact, massage therapists now play a role in high-profile medical centers across the country and serve as official employees at many hospitals. It’s important to note that we don’t recommend massage as an alternative to traditional healthcare or as a cure for any illnesses, but rather as one part of an overall treatment program. So what is medical massage? Medical Massage There’s no one official method of massage known as medical massage. Rather, medical massage is broadly defined as massage therapy prescribed or recommended by a medical doctor with a health-based outcome in mind. Of course, this could mean many different things, but it’s important to understand because massage wasn’t always a widely accepted or prescribed aspect of health care. While massage has been around as an aspect of medical practice for centuries, Western medicine has not always embraced it. Nowadays, many health insurance plans cover massage therapy if recommended and referred by doctors. Medical massage can be used to help assist in treatment and recovery for disease, injury, and pain resulting from chronic conditions. Here are a few specific ways massage can be incorporated into medical treatments at hospitals and other medical centers: Hospital Massage Massage therapists can play a strong role in many types of recovery onsite at hospitals. In the past, nurses often provided massages to their patients to ease muscle tension, promote relaxation, and undo knotted muscles caused by lying in bed. Now, hospitals often keep full time massage therapists on staff to help when massage is an important part of patient treatment. Hospital massage therapists are often on call during their shift and travel throughout the hospital to wherever they’re needed. The conditions massage therapists treat in hospitals are varied, but they can help medical professionals with concentrations in cardiology, sports medicine, and surgery. Oncology Massage Oncology massage uses traditional massage therapy techniques that are modified to work safely with patients who are undergoing (or have undergone) cancer treatment. There are trainings and certifications devoted solely to oncology massage, as oncology massage therapists need to understand how cancer and its treatment affect the body. Oncology massage therapists must be able to adjust their massage techniques to adapt to the symptoms and side effects of cancer and treatment, and they must be proficient enough to make these adjustments from patient-to-patient if necessary. For instance, deep-tissue massage may be ruled out for many oncology patients, but gentle massage could help patients relax, sleep, and relieve pain or anxiety. Hospice Massage For patients in hospice care, the focus of massage therapists is usually to provide comfort during the patients’ final days. Usually, this does not come in the form of a traditional table massage. Instead it could include very light massage and gentle touch, with patients clothed and remaining in bed or a chair. For hospice patients, massage therapy can be a pain reliever, promote healthy sleep and bodily functions, reduce swelling, and relieve anxiety. While this can be a very difficult and emotional function for massage therapists, it can also be very rewarding and meaningful to help someone pass away in the most comfortable way possible. Conclusion In the past few decades, massage therapy’s legitimacy among medical professionals has grown by leaps and bounds. Massage therapists could conceivably work in the medical field their entire careers, and the medical field is quickly growing so the industry should continue to see many opportunities. No matter the type of medical massage practiced, massage therapy is now integrated with our understanding of healthcare.   Sources: http://www.hospicare.org/massage-therapy-program/ http://www.s4om.org/faq/item/what-is-oncology-massage-2 https://www.amtamassage.org/uploads/cms/documents/hospitalsembracemassage.pdf http://www.massagetoday.com/digital/index.php?i=638&r=t#1
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