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Massage Therapists Use Awareness Week as a Teaching Opportunity

Massage Therapists Use Awareness Week as a Teaching Opportunity

Posted on 31 Jan, 2023

AMTA's National Massage Therapy Awareness Week® (NMTAW) took place between October 23 and October 29, 2022. The annual event is dedicated to promoting the benefits of massage therapy across the nation.

Massage therapists working for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, an NCI designated cancer research hospital in Miami, FL, decided to use the week as an educational opportunity to promote the benefits of massage therapy, specifically for cancer patients.

Karen Lipay, LMT, OMT, MLD, has been the manager of the massage therapy department at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center for four years. She works with a team of four other massage therapists, who have all been trained in oncology massage, in the cancer support services department. This department offers patients free massage therapy, music therapy, art therapy, yoga, and exercise physiology, among other services.

Awareness Week Makes Educating Cancer Patients About Benefits of Massage Easier

Lipay and her team used the opportunity of the annual awareness week to bring as much information as possible to the public about massage therapy and its benefits, specifically oncology massage.

“When I saw that there was a NMTAW event I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to highlight the wonderful benefits of massage therapy for cancer patients and further shine the light on some of the research that is out there about massage therapy for cancer patients,” says Lipay. “We have been able to help educate patients and doctors/staff about the benefits by having these events.”

Presenting oncology massage and its benefits to the patients lets them know that they can safely use massage therapy to help them feel better. When a patient comes to them, Lipay and her team educate them about some of the ongoing research in the field and discuss how each therapist has specific training in massage for oncology patients. “We used the event as a learning tool for patients that are starting on their cancer journey and may not be aware of our services,” says Ruth Ann Lodge, one of the licensed massage therapists on Lipay’s team. “We set up a small fair and offered chair massage to the patients, and even some of the doctors and nurses that passed by.”

Massage therapy can help many cancer patients with various side effects, such as lymphedema or restrictions from radiation, but people often are unaware of these benefits or that it is even an option offered to them. George Velazquez, MPH, LMT, is another of the massage therapists on Lipay’s team who found the educational opportunity NMTAW provided greatly beneficial, especially when it came to presenting the benefits it can have on patients’ side effects. “Education, at least for me, consists of explaining how massage can help reduce, control, or even relieve some cancer treatment side effects,” Velazquez says. “Oncology massage is much more than just relaxing. The truth is it does so much more for the body and mind.”

Doctors and Staff Learn More About Massage

Beyond the patients, however, the response to the event from doctors and staff was particularly exciting. “I think it has been the response from the oncology doctors and staff that has been the greatest!” Lipay says. “We are seeing a big jump in the referrals we get from the doctors for us to see their patients.”

The uptick in referrals has been the best barometer of success for the awareness building event. It proved the outreach accomplished the main goal of educating patients about a beneficial service they may not have been aware of before. “We see patients by appointments, and we are completely booked,” says Lipay.

Lipay and her entire team are in agreement that due to the success of this event, it is something they plan on doing every year. “NMTAW provided us with the opportunity to focus the attention of oncology massage on patients, faculty, and staff who may not have been aware of our services,” Velazquez says. “Oncology massage needs as much marketing as possible to all those involved in both receiving and providing cancer treatment.”

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