Accompanying the rise in popularity of complementary and alternative medicine, there is a strengthening movement to include massage therapy in multi-disciplinary health arenas.
by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.
Considering the dynamic nature of the human body, there is an equally vast range of approaches that can maximize the body’s healing potential. As complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) becomes more mainstream, a growing number of people recognize the health benefits of pulling from several wellness approaches simultaneously. Massage therapy is therapeutic in its own right – but therapists are now seeing the larger picture, that integrating their profession into a multi-disciplinary setting elevates their clients’ ability to achieve a more comprehensive version of their own wellness.
For the average person, getting a full range of their health needs met is a challenging feat. As medical professionals’ skills have improved over the years, the types of specialists in any particular health area have multiplied. There are very few healthcare workers – be it a physician, social worker or massage therapist – who can effectively field health concerns on multiple levels (such as on the cellular, mechanical, neurological, chemical, biophysical or psycho-spiritual levels). Because any wellness deficit is likely a combination of most of these components, healing is infinitely more effective when they are addressed concurrently. Traditional healthcare settings have typically focused on one approach at a time. However, multi-disciplinary practices simultaneously facilitate addressing health issues from several different angles.
A skilled massage therapist can successfully integrate mechanical correction with freeing psycho-spiritual blockages. Although an oversimplification of the tenets of massage, the physical manipulation of tendino-muscular groups can facilitate healthful tissue mechanics while massage’s circulation enhancement can move stuck emotions and release unhealthful thought patterns. As such, massage therapy is an ideal component of a multi-disciplinary health practice where other professionals address cellular, neurological, chemical and biophysical components of clients’ health.
Several examples of where massage therapy can be integrated into a multi-disciplinary health team are:
- Pain Management Clinics – For those who are managing chronic pain, a pain management clinic may have a pain management physician, a neurologist, an orthopedist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist, a psychologist and a massage therapist.
- Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centers – A destination for people looking to break free from an addiction, drug and alcohol rehab centers may offer physician monitoring, psychological and counseling services, educational workshops, fitness assistance, nutrition guidance, biofeedback, acupuncture, meditation classes and massage therapy.
- Oncology Multi-Disciplinary Center – To address the many ways a cancer diagnosis affects someone’s life, this type of practice is particularly effective when traditional physicians and CAM providers work side-by-side. Besides the slew of medical doctors needed for cancer treatment, an oncology multi-disciplinary center may also employ acupuncturists, counselors, nutritionists and massage therapists.
Across the United States, all medical, health and wellness centers have not yet fully embraced the multi-disciplinary approach. However, the improvement in care experienced by those who have been a patient in such an establishment speaks for itself. In today’s day and age, someone who receives one-dimensional care or who must forge their way finding referrals and traveling between providers is not receiving the best care possible. On the other hand, visiting a comprehensive clinic where different types of practitioners approach problems from different angles, communicate with one another and work together for the holistic health of each patient defines the progress being made in modernized healthcare – a model that is inclusive of the massage therapy profession.
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