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Massage Therapy Case Study: From Depressed And Emaciated To Thriving

I wanted to share a case study with you of a client of mine. My client did give their permission to publish this. Their name and identifying information has been omitted. This study illustrates how combining the principals of Chinese medicine with massage therapy can make a big impact in a client's life.



A 72-year-old male sought out massage therapy for help with pain. He reported chronic, constant pain in all areas of the body, especially the joints. He had a botched knee surgery on the right knee that causes constant pain and difficulty walking. He was physically emaciated and underweight. He reported difficulty with eating due to vomiting after he ate. The only thing he could tolerate were protein shakes.


His emotional state was one of a person in a state of frustration, despair and depression.  His current physical state and the lack of care from his physicians caused him to feel abandoned and question the point of living if life was just suffering. From the way he was speaking, I did not suspect him to be suicidal, instead just seeking relief from his pain.


After his initial massage, when he stood up, he began to feel dizzy and started having dry heaves. He also began to panic due to his stomach getting upset and feeling embarrassed. He did not vomit.  Once the retching stopped, he drank some water and sat down. I had a table warmer on during his session, and I suspect the heat from the warmer was what made him feel this way due to his body being so depleted.  He was able to stabilize and leave without any emergency intervention. I scheduled for him to see me on a weekly basis to help turn his situation around.



At his next visit I did not turn on the table warmer.  Because he was emaciated, and unable to eat due to his stomach issues, I decided to do an abdominal massage with an oil formula for neuropathy. This formula has warm, dispersing essential oils that can be helpful to stimulate the digestive system and appetite. During the abdominal massage, I worked on abdominal acupressure points like Liver 13, 14 and Conception Vessel 14, 15.  I also spent time massaging the acupressure point Stomach 36.  Afterwards I covered the stomach with a hot towel to bring warmth to the abdomen and organs.


Liver 13 & 14 are all about initiating change and having hope for the future. It also helps with digestion difficulties. Conception vessel 14 & 15 help calm the mind.  Stomach 36 helps a person have the energy to “go the extra mile”.  It is also very good for digestion issues.


Why massage the abdomen?  The poor state of the muscles played a big role in his chronic pain. The digestive system plays a big role in the state of the muscles.  Weak digestion can correlate with weak muscles.  If a person cannot eat due to digestive weakness, they cannot provide the muscles the proper nutrition and blood needed to keep the muscles hydrated and functioning.  By addressing the digestive system, his muscles have a better chance at improving, thus lowering his pain.


It is also very common for older members of the population to have "cold" and weak digestion. In the American culture we drink lots of iced drinks, and this can impact the stomach's ability to break down food and the intestine's ability to absorb nutrients. By massaging the abdomen, this improves the circulation of the muscles and digestive organs. The oil and hot towel provide warmth to the abdomen and helps stimulate appetite.



By the 5th visit, his attitude had shifted.  He was happier and appeared to have more energy. He reported he felt relief from his chronic pain with the massage sessions. Although the relief was temporary, it made a difference in how he felt emotionally. He felt hopeful just to have a break from the constant pain he experienced. I asked him how his stomach was doing and he reported he hasn’t had any issues with vomiting for a couple of weeks and was able to eat normally. He even reported that his primary care doctor complemented him because he gained a pound since his last visit.


He has continued to see me on a weekly basis for 9 months.  Earlier on into his treatments, the pain relief he got from massage only lasted about 2 days.  Now it lasts up to 5-6 days. He has gained 25 pounds and his muscle tone and mobility has improved.


I hope this case study demonstrates how massage therapy is more than just a "spa" experience. It goes beyond relaxation. Massage therapy coupled with the principals of Chinese medicine can help the session go deeper and affect the body in ways outside of the musculo-skeletal system.






Note: if you are feeling depressed/suicidal due to your situation, please call 988 for immediate help! The results of this session are a unique case, and I am a trained graduate of an accredited Chinese Medicine and Herbology program.

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