In my experience as a massage therapist, I have seen hundreds of clients and many put me to the test with their excellent technical knowledge of rare diseases: this is because when you suffer from a rare condition you become an expert as you research symptoms and treatment.
In particular, people who suffer from rare conditions often get frustrated by the lack of knowledge (and sometimes sympathy) from general practitioners and even specialists.
Cases that spring to mind are when someone came to me with rare circulatory conditions that affect 5%-10% of the population and I really had to do a lot of research to understand what those conditions entailed.
Intravascular papillary endothelial hyperplasia anyone? Exactly! I had never heard of that one either as it only affects 3% of the population.
It was first identified by Masson in 1923 as the red/blue nodules in fingers, trunk, head and neck.
The normal procedure is to remove the affected cells by surgery. This produces scar tissue on the area and more cells may reappear.
When a worked on a client’s hands I used manual lymphatic drainage to boost the microscopic circulation in her fingers. After a few sessions her fingertips, which were a deep blue at the start, were becoming a healthy pink. It was a very rewarding experience.
Another interesting condition I came across was Morton’s neuroma, an injury to the nerve between the toes usually between the third and forth toe affecting 10% of the population over 40. There’s no known cause and it affects more women then men. Although trauma or tight shoes can be a cause sometimes, in most cases it just appears and disappears by itself. Surgery is not required for this condition and most remedies including insoles or anaesthetic injections may or may not work.
I used some pressure points and some circular movements to make the area around the toes less painful and more flexible for my client. It took quite a few sessions to gain some improvement.
Raynaud’s disease is a circulatory condition affecting 3% of the general population that makes the sufferer’s hands or toes white from bad blood supply to the extremities. The blood vessels contract blocking the flow of blood making the tissues cold and white. The condition can be caused by cold temperatures but also anxiety and stress. Wearing gloves and using relaxation techniques when stressed can improve the condition. The cause is still unknown but when Raynaud’s disease appears as a secondary condition after an illness, it is related to immune system diseases like lupus or rhematoid arthritis.
Normal holistic massage can be very beneficial to stimulate the circulation and it can be alternated with lymphatic drainage. The effects on the circulation are, unfortunately, temporary but the sufferer can at least gain some relief.
What’s the lesson in this? First of all, I learned that humility and honesty is the best policy: admitting a lack in knowledge and following up by doing research always worked well with clients. All these conditions benefited from the application of regular massage and in the case of circulatory diseases they require mechanical help to facilitate the flow of blood. Neurological diseases like Morton’s neuroma benefit from massage as it can act as a painkiller to soothe and release the area being affected.
I was particularly delighted with the results of massaging the client suffering from Masson’s tumour as the appearance and functionality of the fingers improved considerably over the weeks of treatment. The fingertips went from a deep blue colour to a dark pink colour and the limited mobility due to the scar tissue from surgery increased at the end of the course.