Massage Supplements Medical Treatment

By Cecelia Goodnow 1996, Seattle Post-Intelligencer | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 24, 1996 | Go to article overview

Massage Supplements Medical Treatment


Cecelia Goodnow 1996, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


EVER HEARD of reflexology? How about Hellerwork, CranioSacral Therapy, Feldenkrais or Zero Balancing?

Those are a few of the esoteric-sounding techniques that make up the burgeoning world of bodywork - one of the fastest-growing forms of alternative health-care therapy.

If you waffle over 31 ice cream flavors, just wait until you try to choose from among the 80 to 100 entrees on the bodywork menu.

Once seen as a front for sexual hanky-panky, massage and the related field of bodywork are enjoying a respectability not seen since the 1880s, when Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Harrison would slip off to Hartwig Nissen's Swedish Health Institute near the U.S. Capitol.

Although Olympic athletes have long used sports massage, the 1996 Summ er Games in Atlanta will mark the first time massage therapy has been an official part of the medical team, reports Elliot Greene, past president of the American Massage Therapy Association.

Massage isn't limited to top athletes. In a landmark 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, massage ranked as the third most common alternative health-care treatment.

It's still possible to get a feel-good rubdown under poolside palms, but consumers are increasingly turning to bodywork as a supplement to standard medical care.

"I think they go hand in hand," said Dr. Lucy Sutphen, an internist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, who used massage therapy, along with anti-inflammatory medication, to overcome persistent pain after neck surgery. "It's been around a long, long time and it's a very safe treatment. It certainly helps with stress-related disorders."

Researchers are just beginning to explore when and why such techniques work. The Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health has funded four studies into how massage affects immune function and anxiety in AIDS and cancer patients, bone-marrow transplant recipients and premature infants born to HIV-infected mothers. …

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