Text: Massage for the Hospital Patient and Medically Frail Client by Gayle MacDonald, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2005, 220 pages.

“Human touch,” says Gayle MacDonald, “is a vital component in caring for the sick.” In her new book entitled Massage for the Hospital Patient and Medically Frail Client, MacDonald examines the role of massage therapy both within the hospital setting and in a variety of private practices that focus on the medically frail. For the massage therapist, her book answers the question, “What knowledge and skills do practitioners need to safely administer massage to people who are experiencing ill health?”

Hospital based massage therapy is being offered in hospitals under such departments as Integrative Medicine, Complementary Therapies, and Holistic Health. MacDonald’s book successfully demystifies these medical settings by acquainting massage therapists with medical devices, medications, diagnostic tests, infection control and other safety procedures within these environments.

Throughout the text, valuable and comprehensive technical information is creatively interwoven with the healing aspects of massage to create a sensitive and grounded approach to working with this population in various settings, including the hospital. MacDonald offers tips to therapists in offset boxes on topics such as clinical massage considerations for different pathologies and anecdotes shared by students, therapists and patients. The text is illustrated with black and white photographs depicting patient positioning and massage technique modifications for a wide variety of pathologies and medical situations. Appendices list common abbreviations, define touch modalities and present a variety of sample intake forms and charts. An extensive glossary and detailed index complete this text.

Massage programs within unique medical populations are covered in the last chapter entitled, “Blazing New Trails.” For example, Jan Locke, LMT, shares her experience of performing massage in the emergency room setting and Lee Erman, on staff at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, describes massage during conscious brain surgery. Massage adjustments needed for pre- and post-organ transplant patients are also covered in detail.

The many benefits of massage therapy for those who are hospitalized or medically frail are successfully advancing the use of massage within mainstream medicine. One day, MacDonald states, it is conceivable that, “the scope of hospital massage will expand to include the use of bodywork as a treatment for medical conditions.” To this end, MacDonald’s text paves the way.