More often today than ever before, patients with physical disabilities are turning to massage therapy as a supplement to their regular healthcare treatment. As a result, massage therapy schools have evolved to develop curricula that responds to this growing demand, drawing on the latest scientific research on the capacity of MT to benefit people with exceptional needs.
In Canada alone there are over 86,000 individuals living with a spinal cord injury. 51 percent of cases are due to accident and 49 percent are due to disease. It may seem surprising, but younger generations are increasingly afflicted by spinal cord injuries - the most prominent causes being motor vehicle crashes and sporting accidents. While spinal cord injuries are not usually fatal, they typically leave patients with a lifelong disability that will impact every area of their life.
Craniosacral Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is one way for a spinal cord injury patient to manage physical challenges and find relief from chronic pain and discomfort. An effective supplemental treatment for a spinal cord injury is craniosacral massage therapy. When administered by a trained therapist, craniosacral massage therapy has been shown to decrease stress from chronic injuries and provide relief from associated musculoskeletal pain.
The craniosacral system is made up of membranes and fluids that surround the brain and spinal cord, and also carry essential nutrients to the rest of the body. It is common for the wear and tear of everyday activities and stresses, including stress brought on by injury, to affect the craniosacral system. To treat these impacts, craniosacral massage therapy targets the skull and spine areas to feel the pulse of cerebrospinal fluid moving in the brain and spine. A skilled therapist with knowledge of the craniosacral system can use a soft touch to provide a release in these critical areas.
Treating Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries
The result of craniosacral therapy on spinal cord injury patients has ranged from moderate to quite dramatic. Spinal cord trauma damages not only the musculoskeletal and central nervous systems, but often also impedes the function of a patient’s organs and overall health. It is common for afflicted patients to experience a loss of bowel or bladder control, chronic musculoskeletal pain, numbness and muscle weakness. Over time, a spinal cord injury patient loses much of their muscle tone, leading to uncomfortable and painful changes in posture. Massage therapy can be effective for helping relieve the discomfort that results from these bodily changes.
Advanced massage therapy training can prove invaluable for RMTs who wish to treat patients with spinal cord injuries. After graduating from college, many MTs choose to enhance their learning by focusing professional development on a particular area of practice - such as therapeutic applications of craniosacral therapy.
Are you drawn toward working with clients who have spinal cord injuries? What other massage therapy techniques do you think would be effective for these clients?