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Massage and Soft Tissue Techniques can be the Bridge to Healthcare Integration

Massage and Soft Tissue Techniques can be the Bridge to Healthcare Integration

By: Alfie Vente RMT, R. Ac

It is an honour to be invited to do a guest blog for Eight Branches Academy of Eastern Medicine. I want to especially thank Renee Pilgrim and Ryan Brooks for allowing me this privilege.

As Traditional Acupuncturists and Eastern Medical practitioners we have a perspective that is complementary to Western Medicine. As different as it may seem to an observer, I have had the long standing belief that both forms of medicine when integrated can benefit the patient.

We may speak a different “language” but our goals are similar to those in Western Medicine. That is to assist those that are in need of healing. As a relatively new regulated profession, we must be able to work closely together with other forms of healthcare.

It is to our advantage to be able to work, speak, understand and at least have a working knowledge of the tao of Western medicine. It is to our advantage because it will assist in growing our industry by promoting understanding and co-operation.

As a Registered Massage Therapist and now, Registered Acupuncturist, I have worked closely with Physiotherapists who specialize in orthopaedics, sports doctors and family physicians here in Toronto.  I understand that I must be able to speak in their terms. I must translate “Massage speak” or “Eastern Medicine speak” into their verbiage. Having this skill allows a positive cascade. This includes ameliorating patient conditions generally faster by having a co-operative and integrative approach with other healthcare personnel.

Patient trust is increased resulting in improved information retention and improved referral networks. Because of these referrals, I have gained a strong bond with the therapists I was able to refer to and therefore the therapists and doctors felt more comfortable sending me patients.

I have very good success as a Massage therapist. I enjoy working with challenging patients. My hands and knowledge are adept at treating musculoskeletal, scar tissue and facial issues. I take pride in using a multi-angled approach to working with patients. I have seen a bigger jump in successful treatments with my training in Traditional Acupuncture.

Training in improving your soft tissue skills and orthopaedic assessment skills complements the work that Eastern Medicine offers. Understanding the Western way at looking at the musculoskeletal system gives practitioners multiple skills, peripheral to the hands-on techniques gained through knowledge of increased anatomy awareness and assessment.

One of the peripheral skills we want to develop is being able to communicate with patients who “only wish” to understand Western Medical terms. Albeit, there are many things in Eastern Medicine that may be more difficult to translate in a Western form, meaning we must try harder. I liken this to moving to a foreign country. For your benefit you must learn the language and customs to assist you in integrating socially.

Communication with potential healthcare providers can improve. This generally lends to potential referral sources from better connections when there is greater trust and understanding. It is unfortunate that there are those in both communities that have a mistrust based on misunderstandings or a lack of education about the other. We can do our part to better this connection.

There is still a lot of room for us to learn of each other’s practice. Learning Western orthopaedic assessment and Western soft tissue/massage techniques is a great step forward. When practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture can improve soft tissue and palpation skills it also help diagnostic & needling skills. Gaining a better understanding of point location via palpating the topography of the tissues. Patients are thankful when they receive an excellent Acupuncture session. Patients also enjoy therapists with “good hands”.  Combining the two effectively will generate greater appreciation of the practitioners and the practice. When this happens it can generate the two big “R’s”-referrals and retention between methods of care.

If you are an Eastern therapist you may ask, “what about Tui na or Shiatsu?” These of course are excellent forms of treatments. Both are Eastern methods and can be expanded upon by adding western soft tissue/massage techniques, language and palpation skills. One good way to improve hands on work is by adding other complementary western techniques.

Hands on skills could always be stronger and for those that want to improve then it is advised to seek further training. Some of the Western styles of soft tissue work include Massage Therapy, Osteopathy (this is actually a full medical system), Cranial Therapy/Cranial Osteopathy/Craniosacral therapy and Myofascial Release.

In September I will be teaching a weekend course at Eight Branches for Registered Acupuncturists, Registered TCM Practitioners and Naturopaths. The course is to help practitioners gain or improve skills in Western orthopaedic assessment and soft tissue techniques.  I will impart my over 12 years experience as a Massage Therapist and former instructor. This is an opportunity to learn simple but powerful techniques to improve patient’s condition and the practice of hands on complementary medicine.

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