Pathology and Massage Therapy
by Ruth Werner

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Stroke, a closely related disorder, is number three. As massage therapists, we work closely with people in all states of health. It is important to be up to speed on the process and consequences of heart disease, since this spectrum of diseases profoundly influences our clients’ abilities to receive bodywork. This class will involve a brief review of the circulatory system in health, followed by a discussion of what happens when that system is under stress. Varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism will be discussed as conditions of the venous side of the systemic circuit. Hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart attack, aneurysm, stroke, heart failure, and metabolic syndrome will be explored as well. We will look at how these conditions develop, how they are treated, and where massage fits for best benefit and least risk. Come get up to speed on the conditions that your clients probably have but may not know they have!

Fibromyalgia and Associated Diseases

Fibromyalgia is the second most commonly diagnosed rheumatic disorder in the US (only osteoarthritis is diagnosed more often). Yet as frequently as it is identified, we still don’t have a solid understanding of this complex group of signs and symptoms. In this interactive conversation we will look at the closely related and confusing labels for some of the most common chronic pain syndromes in the United States. Fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and other conditions will be examined with an eye for understanding their differentiating and overlapping features, and where bodywork can be most effective. These conditions are highly subjective and are often controversial. This class will provide a chance to begin to organize information to provide a firmer grasp on the nuances of these common and challenging conditions.

Common and Chronic Conditions and “I Have a Client Who…”

In this class we will discuss common chronic conditions we see in many clients, including depression, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes. The development of these conditions, along with their most common treatment options will be explored, all with a view for how massage and bodywork can support the best possible outcomes.
Following this discussion, we will open the floor to hear from workshop participants about what other conditions their clients have. Bring a full history to discuss your client’s situation (removing any references to identity, of course!), and we’ll see what we can make of it. This is a wonderful opportunity to share with other therapists and to see what happens when multiple conditions occur simultaneously. While the instructor may not have all the answers (the alternate name for this session is, “Stump the Pathology Teacher”), we will probably be able to point participants in some useful directions.

Ruth Werner is a massage therapist and educator with a passionate interest in the role of bodywork for people who struggle with health. Her book, A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, is in its 3rd edition, and is used in massage schools all over the world. She is at work on the 4th edition, along with several other projects. She writes columns for Massage Today and Massage and Bodywork magazine, and teaches continuing education workshops all over the country. She serves on committees for the Massage Foundation, the AMTA Education project, and the National Certifying Board. Currently based in Utah, Ruth was extremely honored to be selected for the AMTA Council of Schools Teacher of the Year Award for 2005.


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