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Massage News - June 2017

Massage News - June 2017

Touching the Lived Body in Patients with Medically Unexplained Symptoms

Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are estimated to be the presenting problem for 35% up to 64% of new patients in general practice. The term MUS has received a lot of criticism, yet, recent diagnostic ‘improvements’ still fail to offer a better understand its cause and provide better therapy. However there is an increasing amount of research that shows the importance of personal history, attachment, and trauma which can be a key element in understanding MUS. In a new article, published in, the authors reflected on how hands-on bodywork influences Body Awareness, helps patients to mentalize and express what they experience which can be seen as a more body integrated psychotherapeutic approach of MUS. One case of MUS is called alexithymia, the absence of mental elaboration of bodily arousal, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, non-cardiac chest pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and to some extent panic attacks as well as medical and psychiatric disorders. Alexithymia can be seen as the lack of ability to explore and express one’s own bodily sensations and feelings, as well as the emotional presence. This inability influences the embodied being and participating of these patients in the world, which is coined as ‘the lived body’ and underlies what is mostly referred to as body awareness (BA). The group of researchers from Belgium explores an innovative hypothesis how hands-on bodywork can influence body awareness and serve as a rationale for a body integrated psychotherapeutic approach of MUS. Research not only shows that BA is a bottom-up ‘bodily’ affair but is anchored in a interoceptive-insular pathway (IIP) which in turn is deeply connected with autonomic and emotional brain areas as well as verbal and non-verbal memory. Moreover, it is emphasized how skin and myofascial tissues should be seen as an interoceptive generator, if approached in the proper manual way. The article offers supportive evidence explaining why a ‘haptic’ touch activates this IIP, restores the myofascial armored body, helps patients rebalancing their window of tolerance and facilitates BA by contacting their bodily inner-world. Finally, the article reflects on how the integration of bodywork with non-directive verbal guidance can be deeply healing and resourcing for the lived body experience in MUS. The full article (which often can be not easily digested) can be read here

The Effectiveness of Plantar-Massage Techniques on Postural Control in Those With Chronic Ankle Instability

One of the major concerns after an acute lateral ankle sprain is the potential for development of chronic ankle instability (CAI). The existing research has determined that clinician-delivered plantar massage improves postural control in those with CAI. However, the effectiveness of self-administered treatments and the underlying cause of any improvements remain unclear.

The study published in Journal of Athletic Research was conducted to determine (1) the effectiveness of a self-administered plantar-massage treatment in those with CAI as well and (2) whether the postural-control improvements were due to the stimulation of the plantar cutaneous receptors.

A total of 20 physically active individuals (6 men and 14 women) with self-reported CAI. All participants completed 3 test sessions involving 3 treatments: a clinician-delivered manual plantar massage, a patient-delivered self-massage with a ball, and a clinician-delivered sensory brush massage.

The results showed that static postural control improved after each of the interventions. However, no changes in dynamic postural control after any of the interventions were observed. No differences were observed between a clinician-delivered manual plantar massage and either a patient-delivered self-massage with a ball or a clinician-delivered sensory brush massage in any postural-control outcome. The authors concluded that those with CAI, single 5-minute sessions of traditional plantar massage, self-administered massage, and sensory brush massage each resulted in comparable static postural-control improvements. The results also provide empirical evidence suggesting that the mechanism for the postural-control improvements is the stimulation of the plantar cutaneous receptors.

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