Navigating the Path to Wellness with Massage Therapy

The following are excerpts from an article by Donna Shryer which appeared in Massage Therapy Journal dated August 22, 2017.

(My comments are in parentheses.)

Consider this: 20 years ago, massage for cancer patients was categorically judged unwise for fear that it accelerated the spread of the cancer. However, recent studies reverse this opinion, highlighting specific instances where massage is both indicated and highly beneficial for cancer patients. Similarly, researchers now feel that patients with any of the following five chronic medical conditions—or pathologies—can benefit from massage therapy.


The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic disease of the joints that affects more than 30 million Americans. Most people over age 60 have OA to some degree, which occurs as the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down. Bones most often affected are in the hands, spine, and knee and hip joints, with symptoms including pain, stiffness, swelling and decreased range of motion. (**Study results showed that massage therapy enabled significant improvements in pain, function and stiffness.)

Type 2 Diabetes 

Affecting 29.1 million Americans, Type 2 diabetes (T2D) accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases diagnosed. A common T2D complication is peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage caused by chronically high blood sugar. Symptoms include numbness; loss of sensation; pain in the feet, legs or hands; and, specific to diabetic peripheral neuropathy in the feet, impaired balance. (**Study results showed improvement in balance, foot sensation and mobility.)

**In a study presented at the 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium, massage was shown to greatly decrease CIPN (chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy) -associated symptoms, increase skin temperature in fingers and toes, and generally improve quality of life in persons affected by chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia 

Dementia is a group of signs and symptoms, an umbrella term that covers multiple progressive neurodegenerative diseases with similar clinical profiles. Alzheimer’s is under that umbrella. Here’s a brief list of dementia symptoms that apply to Alzheimer’s:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty performing ordinary activities
  • Feeling confused or frustrated, especially at night
  • Dramatic mood swings—outbursts of anger, anxiety and depression
  • Feeling disoriented and getting lost easily
  • Physical problems, such as an odd walk or poor coordination
  • Trouble communicating

(**Several small studies showed decreased aggressiveness, improved relaxation and decreased stress levels.)


Cancer defies a simple, singular definition due to hugely positive advancements in the study and treatment of tumors. However, the disease as a category continues to bring with it some degree of pain, anxiety and depression. In these areas, numerous research reviews and clinical studies suggest that at least for the short term, massage therapy can help reduce discomfort, promote relaxation and boost mood.

Mood Disorders 

Mood disorders, as defined by Salvo, “are emotional disturbances consisting of prolonged periods of excessive sadness or excessive elation, or both, that significantly impair the person’s capacity to function.”

What is clear is that studies large and small have shown that massage therapy can help soothe stand-alone and symptomatic mood disorders. “Research suggests and clients report that massage therapy can reduce pain and improve quality of life,” Salvo says. In addition, Salvo writes in her textbook Mosby’s Pathology for Massage Therapists / Edition 3, “Although massage does not eliminate stress, it often helps us cope with it better and alleviates some symptoms.”

Feel Better, Stay Well. Body Dialog Massage.

Long Distance Travel Tips

I blogged about my travel experience to England in 2014 and have provided tips on my Body Dialog Massage Facebook page about how to prepare yourself for your big travel plans. Here are some of the worst mistakes of long distance travel and how to avoid them.

Sleep/Wake Pattern
The number one no-no is to decide that no matter what time zone you’re destined for, you will rigidly maintain your sleep/wake pattern until the day you leave. This first mistake is so foolish it makes me cringe to write it. Travel is all about loosening up your schedule to try some new things so start now!
A week before you fly, find out the time difference between where you are and your destination and also when the sun rises and sets there at that time of year. Start adjusting your bedtime by a half hour or so a night (within reason) to get you closer to the nighttime hours during which you’ll be sleeping when you arrive.
While in-flight try to stay mostly awake if it’s daytime at your destination and mostly asleep if you’ll arrive first thing in the morning. There are multiple sleep aids to help you achieve a decent outcome. I have used Kava kava, valerian root and also melatonin with good results. I have also used Stress/Sleep Formula drops by Desert Willow and Somnolin tablets from Metagenics. Acupuncture can set you up with points to stimulate every hour or so of your flight to help you feel as human as possible upon arrival. Some people find that a neck support pillow can help and some airline seats have little ‘wings’ you can pull out to rest your head against. Sometimes an eye mask can be helpful when your fellow travelers want to look out the window all night or use their reading light. Personally, I take a small travel pillow and put a blanket over my head, which is also a signal that I prefer not to be woken for meals. If you do this make sure your seat belt is loosely fastened outside the blanket.
Once you’ve arrived, go to bed at a reasonable time for that time zone and no matter what, avoid long naps for at least the first few days. So if your normal bedtime is 10:00 p.m. do not go to bed at 8:00 p.m. or allow a second wind to have you reading until 1:00 a.m. A quick nap is okay if your head is drooping but longer naps can rob you of precious sleep that night. Again, use a sleep aid if you need to. This really will help your body clock adjust more quickly.
Personally I rarely take even an aspirin but with over 40 years of international travel experience, I have found that the travel itself can be incredibly grueling and my body recovers more easily from a little chemical (yes, as mentioned above) or natural help than it does from a severe lack of sleep.
Here’s a tip from fashion diva, Carolina Herrera: “When I was living in Los Angles, I always booked a moisturizing milk-and-honey massage the day before flying to Spain. It was heaven – I never got dry plane skin or felt stiff from sitting in one position.”
Take an empty water bottle on board and go to the galley to get it filled often. Most airlines will do this for you, but not in the cabin where everyone would then want the same thing. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one or two drinks since it will further dehydrate you and contribute to feeling yucky later.
Take along some decent snacks from home that you will actually want to eat in-flight in case the meal provided (if there is one!) is not to your liking. Don’t eat everything they provide to get your moneys worth and don’t eat foods you would normally avoid. Food tends to sit in the stomach at altitude and digests much more slowly. You get the picture.

Stretching & Moving
Check the airline magazine in your seat pocket for stretches to do while seated and get up when you can to walk up and down and stretch some more. Remember, hydrate, eat light and stretch!


Kim Cattrall, actor remind us, “I’ve realized that the most important thing I can do to look good is just treat myself well, whether it’s getting a nice long massage or just lying low and not going out every single night”.

With just a little attention to these details you can look and feel your best and be ready for your first day of fun and discovery!

Feel Better, Stay Well. Body Dialog Massage.
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