Monday, December 2, 2013

The Role of Massage Therapists to HIV/AIDS+ Clients

"The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which
is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing."

- Eric Berne      

HIV/AIDS and Massage Therapy

December is HIV/AIDS Awareness Month, Dec 1 being World AIDS Day. And this year's theme is all about "Shared Responsibility" (See the details here)

So what exactly can we Massage Therapists do? How can Massage Therapy help?

With the broad prevalence of individuals living with HIV and AIDS, it is very important for massage therapists to understand the disease. Even if you do not specialize in HIV/AIDS massage it is essential in your practice to be informed about it. You may never know, someone positive may be on your care one of these days. (To learn more about HIV and AIDS, visit here

The Role of Massage Therapist to HIV/AIDS Patients

Massage therapists play a role in the lives of those infected with HIV and AIDS by complementing the patient's medical team. Massage therapy plays a vital role in helping patients cope with the various symptoms of HIV/AIDS and indirectly boosts the immune system at the same time. The factors that seemed to contribute to immune enhancement were multiple-dose massages lasting for a longer duration of time. It is recommended that the therapist use a full-body stress management approach.

Here are some research on the efficacy of massage on HIV/AIDS patients includes the following:

  • Scafidi & Field studied HIV-positive babies; the mother of each child served as the massage therapist. The babies who received massage therapy gained significant weight in comparison to the control group babies that did not receive any massage therapy. The massaged babies also presented with lower stress behaviors. As a contributing variable, the mothers showed reduced anxiety and lower stress levels.
  • Ironson and Field conducted a study in 1996 on the effect of massage therapy on the immune system. This study was performed on 23 HIV-positive and 10 HIV-negative men. The men received a month of daily 45-minute massages and alternately a month without massage. The massage group showed significant increases in natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity (p<0.01), cytotoxic T-cells (p<0.05), and relaxation levels, and significant decreases in urinary cortisol and states of anxiety (p<0.01). NK cells have shown to be highly protective in HIV-positive patients, thus massage therapy could prove significant. The role of NK also might be significant in other diseases such as cancer. The study was done on a small sample; a larger study with a larger sample is recommended.
  • Seventy three HIV-positive men were studied by Antoni, et al., to determine how cognitive-behavioral stress management (including massage therapy) affected anxiety, T-cytotoxic/suppressor cells and 24-hour urinary norepinephrine output. The results showed significant reduction in anxiety, anger, total mood disturbance and perceived stress, and lowered norepinephrine output. Even after six to 12 months, there was a significant increase in T-cytotoxic/suppressor (CD4+CD8+) lymphocytes.
Source: Massage Today

Below are some general guidelines from the CDC massage therapists can follow when working with HIV/AIDS patients:

1. Be educated about the disease.
2. Perform a patient history.
3. Survey the patient to ascertain there are no cuts, open wounds or bleeding.
4. Survey your hands to ascertain there are no cuts, open wounds or bleeding.
5. Keep your nails short so they don't accidentally scratch the patient.
6. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before and after massage.

Research on Massage Therapy regarding HIV/AIDS is still at its infancy, but the results have been encouraging. Massage Therapists being Healthcare Professionals can significantly improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS by providing that much-needed personal and therapeutic touch other treatments do not generally give - in the same manner that they have always did with any healthy individuals living with their very own life stressors!

- Leo Feraer-Oporto      

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