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Treating Beyond Pain
More often than not, when a patient presents to the office, it is for a pain complaint. Headache, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel... The pain is often the focus of the patient's mindset, and they don't often have any thought of what comes after the pain.
The Way We Are Designed: A Conversation with Gil Hedley, PhD
I was first introduced to the work of Gil Hedley by Tom DiFerdinando. He gifted me Gil's DVD series.
Talking to Patients About Lumbar Facet Denervation (Medial Branch Neurotomy)
Lumbar facet denervation, more appropriately termed medial branch neurotomy (MBN), is a procedure that may be considered when patients suffer from recalcitrant non-radicular axial back and/or leg pain.
Turning a Blind Eye to History – and Reality
The American Medical Association is taking the Supreme Court's Feb. 25, 2015 decision exactly as it always does – by turning a blind eye to history, legal precedent and reality.
Sleep, Less Sleep or No Sleep?
I had a dream I wasn't getting enough sleep. It was a very realistic dream, even though I was probably slightly awake and not really deep dreaming. Most likely I had been dozing, caught in that twilight of sleep and wakefulness.
Recreational Cannabis Use and TCM
Many people are drawn to cannabis for its effects physically, mentally and emotionally. Medically, cannabis has some legitimate uses, however the scope of this article is limited to the recreational use of cannabis.
The Dietary Supplement Research Dilemma
I do not care what the truth is, one way or another; I just want to know it. And when it comes to dietary supplements, the truth can be hard to find for a number of reasons.
Low Back Pain in Professional Golf: A Common Muscular Relationship
Every sport creates its own unique demands on the body. Some sports require such a myriad of body positions that assessing pathology is often difficult and unpredictable.
Synergy Doesn't Happen in Silos: Acupuncture in Hospitals and Other Healthcare Settings
As acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine continue to intersect and integrate with biomedical approaches, the conversation about integration expands and becomes richer.
Will You Be an Amplifer or a Mute?
These times are changing, and changing quickly. There have been many challenges to this profession throughout the past few years. The challenge is to talk, then talk and talk some more about this medicine.
Converting More Patients to Your Practice
In 2013 and 2014, the theme was "the money is in the list." This meant that if you had a big email list, you were really making some "cha-ching." Unfortunately, having thousands of emails doesn't equate to thousands of dollars in profit.
A View From the ER
The University of Western States has inked an innovative agreement with local nonprofit health system Legacy Health whereby UWS sports-medicine fellows can experience observational clinical rotations in emergency-room settings within the Legacy system.
TCM Congress in Rothenburg is Largest in Western World
In the medieval town of Rothenburg, deep set within the Bavarian countryside in Southern Germany, the TCM Kongress Rothenburg each year draws around 1.200 participants from more than 40 different countries to attend the biggest TCM conference in the Western world.
The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biopsychosocial and Ecopsychologica Medicine
Chinese medicine speaks of alignment between humans, heaven and earth. It is a complex view with a focus upon relationship. These are comprehensive ideas with no specific terms in contemporary medical practice.
A Well-Kept Secret: 5 Element Acupuncture, Part II
Supervising acupuncture interns at a TCM college, it has always struck me how funny it is to hear the clinic manager tell the patients that the Five Element clinic specializes in treating emotions, as if patients with physical pain have no emotions!
Applying the Thin Skull Principle
The "thin skull" principle, also known as the "you take your victim as you find them" principle, is a legal principle that can be summed up by the following statement.
A House Divided?
The American Chiropractic Association's House of Delegates voted on 30 resolutions at its annual business meeting in Washington D.C., but two in particular took immediate center stage due to their controversial nature.
Optimism = Compassion = Trust
A randomized clinical trial recently published online in JAMA Oncology examined how patients viewed their doctor based upon how the practitioner presented bad news to the patient.
There Really is No Room for Sexism
Recently, Matteo* (a transgender male) approached me during a break in an advanced shiatsu class in Berlin where he was one of two men in a group of 20 women. "Pamela. Don't forget to remind the translator to include male endings."
An Excerpt from TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Jamie Wu. TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics was released in 2014 by People's Medical Publishing House.
Functional Hip Impingement (Part 1)
Every time I sit down to write an article, I realize how much more there is to know about musculoskeletal pain. I also learn something new every time. (I want to give special thanks to Lucy Whyte Ferguson for assisting with this article.)
Using Essential Oils on Clients with Cancer: What You Need to Know
The potential for the massage therapist to encounter a client in a stage of treatment for some form of cancer has grown in the last few decades. If you use essential oils in your massage practice, there are some things to consider.
Despite an idea being enthusiastically circulated by purveyors of essential oils, no essential oil is known to be a cure for cancer. Those promoting the essential oil of frankincense (Boswellia carteri) for its anti-cancer activity, especially those recommending it for topical and ingestion treatment to effect a cure, might be overlooking a fact about aromatherapy chemistry. Most of the actual research done on frankincense and cancer has involved promising active ingredients found in the resin. One of these is boswellic acid, a non-volatile, triterpene that does not exist once the resin is put through hydro-distillation to produce the essential oil.
For this, and other reasons, applying frankincense in massage will not create a miracle. It's also out of the scope of practice to prescribe a tea made with resin tears and that's also not advisable. Boswellia carteri is an endangered species with regulations imposed on production which results in scarcity. That creates a high probability of a resin adulterated by inclusions or substitution. And even if the absolute, 100% pure resin is available at an affordable cost, the studies undertaken do not convey the safe and appropriate dosage that might achieve in the body what has been seen in a petri dish.
As is frequently the case, there is little scientific research to report about the efficiency of aromatherapy for patients undergoing treatment for cancer. Most of the information we have comes from the empirical evidence of practicing aromatherapists and their clients.
I did find one study* that measured changes in patient-reported levels of physical or psychological distress or quality of life using essential oils and massage. The most observable effect was relief of anxiety. The study did not conclude that the addition of essential oils was necessary to achieve this. They reported that beneficial effects on other symptoms, such as depression and pain, may occur, but they concluded that more testing is necessary to make evaluations. I did not find any evidence of further research.
There have also been studies on the monoterpene content of essential oils relating to cancer prevention and treatment, particularly limonene.** But it is extremely important to understand that one isolated component used in vitro does not replicate the experience of topical use of the whole essential oil. This evidence would not support the idea that an aromatic massage with an essential oil containing limonene (such as lemon, Citrus limon) would produce a cure.
Having said this, can aromatherapy massage help cancer patients? Has that one study disproved the efficiency of essential oils in massage? I think not. And there are decades of empirical evidence that would agree with me. It's also helpful to know that empirical evidence is sometimes more useful than other forms of research. When scientific research is conducted on the use of essential oils in treatment of cancer patients, only a very few are selected for the trials. These are administered in a clinical setting, which can also affect the patient's response. What the educated aromatherapist knows is that the best way to use essential oils is in a holistic rather than symptom-specific approach. This is because essential oils have specific effects on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. All essences that are known to reduce pain do not have the same specific effects on these subtle levels. Clinical trials do not generally address these differences.
One reason a test might include only a few essences is that, in the case of an institution such as a clinic or hospital, "efficiency" would require a one size fits all approach that would indicate one specific essential oil for each symptom. But there are underlying reasons why a person undergoing chemotherapy and radiation would have anxiety, reflecting the other life circumstances that need to be considered. The effective use of aromatherapy would include ascertaining these individual needs and using the corresponding essential oils that would address them. In a massage therapy practice, there is an opportunity to discover and to address all the client's life issues and create a specific blend that is likely to have very helpful results. Are there contraindications for using essential oils in massage for cancer patients?
It has long been believed that certain essential oils are not to be used during cancer treatment as they might inhibit or increase the uptake of chemotherapy ingredients. This idea has, for the most part, been disproven in the case of skin application. There is an in vitro study of the effect of the essential oil component geraniol*** (found in geranium and others) on cells of colon cancer that showed an increase in the uptake of 5-FU with geraniol present. In concluding statements: "By fluidizing the membrane, geraniol may favor cellular uptake of anticancer drugs. This could permit the use of lower concentrations of chemotherapeutic drugs and, at the same time, lower their secondary effects. Investigations are in progress with different colonic cancer models in rodents to determine whether the combination of geraniol and 5-FU may offer a promising approach for optimizing the treatment of colorectal cancer." However, this combination is not achieved during topical application or diffusion. And once again,the ratio and effect of a single component in the total chemistry of an essential oil is not the same as that used to measure this component in isolation.
On the matter of use with skin cancer, Robert Tisserand, renowned Aromatherapist and co-author of Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edition, had this to say in answer to a reader's question on his online blog via Robert Tisserand.com in 2012: "A number of essential oils enhance the transcutaneous penetration of other substances. This is a widely-studied phenomenon and research is ongoing. It happens because some essential oil constituents are very good at crossing the epidermis. In a 1991 paper, Williams and Barry found that 1,8-cineole, the major constituent of eucalyptus oil, enhanced the skin permeability of 5-FU by an incredible 95 times. 5-FU is only applied to the skin to treat skin cancers. In those situations, it would be prudent to avoid applying any essential oils or aromatherapy products to the same area of skin. When 5-FU is given intravenously (for internal tumors) applying essential oils to the skin will have no effect. Similarly, ingested essential oils will not affect the dermal delivery of 5-FU, or any other substance."
What the massage therapist can consider, then, is utilizing the empirical evidence that suggests certain essential oils for different phases, circumstances and emotions encountered during cancer treatment. Please consult a reference text for more information about each essential oil listed below. (Suggested texts appear at the end of this article.)
Shock: Neroli (orange blossom), rose otto, ylang ylang, clary sage, patchouli, petitgrain.
Anger: topical diluted and diffusion: roman and German chamomile, lavender, myrrh, mandarin.
Burns: (radiation): topical diluted: carrot seed, lavender, helichrysum.
Courage and Stamina: diffusion of all citrus, sweet orange, sweet basil, rosemary verbenone, thyme, cedar, ginger.
Depression: topical diluted and diffusion: lavender, geranium, rose otto, clary sage, roman chamomile, sweet orange, grapefruit, frankincense.
Insomnia: topical diluted and diffusion: lavender, roman chamomile, jasmine, sweet marjoram, sweet orange, neroli.
Malodorous Wounds: apply to external side of dressing: lemon, clove, lavender. Diffuse in room: pine, lemongrass, lemon, sweet orange.
Nausea: inhalation: peppermint, ginger, sweet fennel (as preferred by the client).
Wound (incision) Healing: topical diluted: lavender, geranium, myrrh, helichrysum, frankincense.
Opportunistic Infection Prevention: topical diluted and diffusion: lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus globulus.
Adrenal support: topical diluted and diffusion: rose geranium, sweet basil, pine.
Immune support: topical diluted and diffusion: ravensara, tea tree, lavender, spike lavender, thyme.
Lymphedema: topical diluted or compress: cypress, helichrysum, blue chamomile, yarrow, juniper berry.
I encourage the massage therapist to explore the use of essential oils for this client population. In this way, they can discover their own empirical evidence for using aromatherapy with clients diagnosed with cancer who have received the go-ahead from their physician for receiving massage therapy as part of their treatment protocol.
Suggested Reference Texts
*Aromatherapy and massage for symptom relief in patients with cancer. Fellowes D1, Barnes K, Wilkinson S. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15106172.
*** Geraniol, a Component of Plant Essential Oils, Sensitizes Human Colonic Cancer Cells to 5-Fluorouracil Treatment S. CARNESECCHI, K. LANGLEY, F. EXINGER, F. GOSSE, and F. RAUL, November 16, 2001 http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/301/2/625.full.pdf.