Complimentary Alternative Medicine or C.A.M. as some call it is a fabulous buzzword these days! It literally means that conventional medical practitioners now willingly coordinate care with professionals who practice alternative forms of therapy, and they complement each other.
When I first entered the field of Massage Therapy, I viewed it as an extension of Physical Therapy. After all, the nurses I worked with and respected highly presented it as such. Once I started school and began to meet other prospective Massage Therapists, I quickly realized there was an antagonistic viewpoint of the medical establishment as a whole in the massage community.
It was common in those days for people other than my nurse friends to have a dim view of alternative therapies. I could not totally blame them, since research into the healing arts was pretty limited (or nonexistent) in my early days. Over the past 15 years or so, there has been more extensive research by mainstream medical communities which has validated many of the alternative theories and practices.
I think another contributing factor to the distrust of Complimentary Alternative Therapists was this: many times, when clients came to me or another therapist, they often do so without telling their Doctors. Most times, when clients came to me and left feeling better, there was no reason to visit their Physicians or to get the meds that they would have had to request in person from their Physicians. Thus, Physicians had no way of knowing when one of their patients had been helped by someone in the Massage field.
It took awhile for information to trickle down into the medical communities. I had a dream that someday we could all see one another’s value, to discover that there is alternatives to pills. Acknowledgement there is place for alternative therapies to help with the healing process. Dreams do come true, and over the last quarter century we have all become more informed. Mutual respect is more evident in the fact that many Physicians prescribe Massage Therapy now as a part of an overall program for their patients. Moreover, we, as Massage Therapists, understand our scope and boundaries.
Massage cannot cure everything so, if clients show up with symptoms of an issue that’s beyond my scope, it is my ethical duty to send them to someone who can help them. Most medical practitioners learn a set routine of subjects and after med school they take continuing education classes. Holistic practitioners are often self-taught, or mentored by a practitioner with many more years experience. Because this is not always documented or certified, it can breed feelings of distrust within the medical community.
What Doctors may not know is that what we gain from working on bodies again and again is further augmented by reading the latest research. We in the alternative care industry also learn from reading and talking to our clients. While some of us also read up on different ailments in Science Digests to understand more of the medical viewpoints. Reading these journals has helped build a better understanding within our community, and it works to build respect from the Medical Community.
When we can intelligently discuss treatment plans using the same terms as a Doctor, that shows we are educated and working from the same basic place. As our field has evolved, there are more degreed courses for Massage Therapists who want a more in-depth body of knowledge, allowing them to be of help in hospital settings.
There are also a wider variety of modalities in Massage that address many issues, including energy and muscular imbalances. Let’s say I have a client come to me because of his achy shoulder. After I ask questions about his activities and what may have caused the injury and so forth, I palpate the area. In a short amount of time, I can usually find something that lets me know whether this is from a muscular injury or a torn tendon. If the work I have done has some benefit, it’s usually apparent within one or two treatments. I may add an exercise for him to perform at home. If this does not produce results, I will suggest he look further. If he uses an Acupuncture Doctor, I’ll send him there. After she examines the patient, does some needling and/or moxi treatments, she may decide to treat the patient’s asthma. The parts of the body related to lungs happen to be the deltoid muscles. If this does not help the patient, she may send him to an orthopedic doctor. The tendons in his shoulder may have calcified, requiring a therapy or surgery beyond mine and the other practitioner’s techniques.
Just as Medical Doctors should ask about the medication a patient is currently taking, so should a Massage Therapist. I have often seen clients suddenly have a painful attack in a knee or hip joint because of taking Lipitor or other cholesterol medicines. As soon as they discontinued the meds, the pain disappeared as fast as it arrived. BUT, do we tell them to stop taking their meds? NO!!!! We simply tell them to read the little paper the Pharmacists give them and ask their prescribing Physicians if they can stop for a week and monitor it or switch to a different medicine.
If Massage Therapists insist that clients discontinue something prescribed by their Doctors, we are asking for trouble. Perceived disrespect shown by undermining the authority of their Physicians will not earn you referrals from anyone. I think it would be ideal to have several practitioners under one umbrella: Acupuncture, G.P MD Physician, some L.M.T.s and P.T.s, and some Yoga and exercise teachers. If they all had an idea of what one another offers, they could work together for the good of the Patient. Clinics like this do exist and are continuing to grow.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a show about cancer treatments that included teaching QI Gong to the patient. Whoever thought you’d see white coats demonstrating energy medicine? That is what QI Gong is. It is the part of acupuncture that is done to and for oneself. I found that so exciting and encouraging to see!
As we grow and learn about each other, together we can help people using our complimentary modalities.