Complementary therapy techniques to support motor neurone disease (MND)

In our Summer issue of International Therapist magazine (Issue 133), we published ‘Man Kind’, a feature looking at the benefits of physical therapies on supporting male mental health.

Catherine Wood, MFHT, contributed a case study to this feature. ‘Will is a gentleman in his 70s who was referred to the local hospice complementary therapy outpatient clinic by the motor neurone disease (MND) specialist nurse, says Catherine.

‘He was referred to me at the local hospice with a view of providing an opportunity for him to relax, to learn coping strategies, to help him come to terms with his recent diagnosis and perhaps to ease his symptoms.  

‘Will was diagnosed with MND only six months ago. At the initial assessment he presented with good upper body function but described rapidly deteriorating lower body function, resulting in increasingly reduced mobility and difficulty performing simple tasks such as dressing. Will has bilateral foot and ankle oedema, consistent with his decreasing lower limb mobility. 

‘Will spoke of the shock of his diagnosis for himself and his family, as well as the practical implications of his rapidly changing physical abilities. Perhaps even more sadly, he spoke about how his expectations and aspirations in life were suddenly taken away. Will also had to instigate the selling of his business and re-locating to be closer to family members. He described how he now spent his days sitting and that he needed constant distraction to cope. He said he thought a course of reflexology sessions would help as it would give him something to look forward to. 

‘Gradually, through our course of sessions Will spoke about his frustration at being unable to perform the practical tasks that were an important part of his personal and business life. At other times he would simply say ‘I’m fine thank you’ before climbing straight onto the therapy couch. Tears were a regular release as he became more physically and emotionally relaxed. Normalisation and reassurance were given as the slower strokes of aromatherapy foot massage and reflexology continued, interchanged with foot holding, then followed with suggestions of relaxing breathing techniques and self-guided imagery. In such situations I find it best to allow disclosure to happen naturally, enabling the patient to talk when they feel that trust and familiarity have been developed. 

‘Despite weekly deterioration we agreed that it was important for Will’s sense of independence that he continued to transfer himself from scooter to couch, so I made sure that sufficient time was given for him to safely perform these tasks. 

‘In our fifth and final session, Will admitted that he had been able to fully relax and partially visualise a relaxing image. He said that the sessions had indeed given him something to look forward to during this overwhelming time.’

Catherine Wood, MFHT, has been a complementary therapist since 1994. Catherine has worked in hospice palliative care for 26 years, initially as a volunteer and working in her own private practice before becoming the Complementary Therapies Coordinator at Dove House Hospice in Hull, East Yorkshire in 2004.

FHT members can access the full Man Kind feature at fht.org.uk/international-therapist-archive

Kelly Foord, MFHT, shares her case study on supporting a male client using reflexology

In our Summer issue of International Therapist magazine (Issue 133), we published ‘Man Kind’, a feature looking at the benefits of physical therapies on supporting male mental health.

Kelly Foord, MFHT, contributed a case study to this feature. ‘My client is in his 40s and came to me for reflexology under strict orders from his wife,’ writes Kelly.

‘He was suffering with long-term chronic pain that was having an impact on his sleep and in turn, his mental health. He reported severe arthritis affecting his neck, shoulders and lower back, and more recently has been suffering additional pain in his hips and, experiencing numbness going down his thighs. In our initial consultation he stated that he was only attending sessions because he was desperate, making it clear that he had low expectations of reflexology.’

‘During the first treatment he reported pins and needles in his hands. When he stood up following the treatment, he crouched slightly, and we heard a very loud crack in his ankles – after which he said he felt a pleasant sensation going up both calves. I explained that these were the hip and sciatic reflexes. When I followed up 24-hours later he reported feeling looser and having slept well.’

‘In subsequent sessions he began reporting pins and needles, night sweats and sleeplessness, all signs that things were starting to release and balance.’

‘In our first few sessions, my client was very closed about his condition and the effect it was having on him, reporting he was OK when I knew that it possibly wasn’t the case. Now he is much more honest about the level of pain he encounters and how it impacts him psychologically. In doing this, my client has opened himself up to a higher level of understanding around him including his family, friends and work colleagues, who can now all be much more effective in their approach towards him.

‘I have a supportive network of therapists and we regularly swap  knowledge and ideas; another great benefit is being able to refer clients who need it. I suggested my client should get in touch with a colleague I know who is trained in somatic experiencing, as I thought this could help to address the psychosomatic aspect of his condition, he has told me he is going to consider this during the lockdown period.’

Kelly Foord, MFHT, is trained in reiki, reflexology, Indian head massage and facial reflexology. Kelly runs her own therapy practice, Reflexerenity, and is based in Kent.

FHT members can access the full Man Kind feature at fht.org.uk/international-therapist-archive

Supporting your male clients – case study by Beverly Chilson, MFHT

In our Summer issue of International Therapist magazine (Issue 133), we published ‘Man Kind’, a feature looking at the benefits of physical therapies on supporting male mental health.

Beverly Chilson, MFHT, contributed a case study to this feature. ‘Working in palliative care is not for everyone, but it is rewarding and far removed from the doom and gloom you may expect’, writes Beverly. ‘It is such a privilege to be able to work with people at such a vulnerable time in their life knowing that what you are doing is making a difference and helping them to maintain a measure of independence, control and dignity.

‘My client, who is in his early 60s, initially came to me with neck and shoulder tension. He was also struggling with a poor sleep pattern. The initial assessment showed forward, kyphotic posture and an equal range of neck movement on both sides, though limited by tension. We agreed on a treatment plan of massage for his back, shoulders, neck and arms, with some home rehabilitation work, including neck and shoulder stretches and a five-minute back extension to help let go of tension and stress. 

‘On his second visit the client mentioned his recent bereavement and associated anxieties. With my background as an occupational therapist in palliative care, this was an area I felt comfortable discussing and a rapport was soon established.  

‘Within three months of regular visits, the client reported reduced tension, increased range of movement, improved sleep and reduced anxiety levels. This may have been part of the natural grief cycle, however the client reported that having someone to discuss feelings with in a safe space every few weeks had a massive impact on his coping mechanisms, and of course he looked forward to the massage treatments. 

‘Being able to explore a person’s feelings and link this with the impact of an injury or problem is not something that comes naturally to everyone, but it is something that can be learned and reflected on to hone your skills and feel more comfortable with every step you take. I have been fortunate in my NHS career to have had the opportunity to complete an Advanced Communications Course and nurture these skills over my years as a therapist to develop them into what they are today. These skills enabled me to encourage conversation with my client about his feelings and to know when and how to close a discussion safely if it isn’t going in the right direction.  

‘The main thing is to be honest with your clients about your limitations and if any conversation is having an impact on you as well. We all relate to people and situations based on personal experience and we need to be mindful of this when exploring difficult conversations with our clients. Most importantly, remember this is just having a conversation about an emotive subject in a safe space and not in any way a counselling session.  

‘Having a good network of people that you can signpost to, should you feel out of your depth, is so important. I was able to signpost my client to his GP and the local NHS Wellbeing service for further support, but in the end, he didn’t feel this was needed as both his physical and mental wellbeing were improving with each session. 

‘Without a doubt, mental and physical health are strongly linked. The key elements of holistic assessment consider the physical, social, environmental and psychological needs of the person you are working with. Everything is interlinked and you can’t really make progress in one area without considering them all. There is a closely linked concept of ‘total pain’ which was first defined by Dame Cecily Saunders in 1959 where it was noted, ‘Much of our total pain experience is composed of our mental reaction.’ (Saunders, 1959).  

‘In this case study, the bereavement increased tension and anxiety which led to a pain response along with a reduction in movement. Being in the home environment of constant reminders and an immediate impact on social norms also amplified the situation. Being able to talk about experiences at his own pace and in a safe space, the client’s presenting condition improved to enable him to think more clearly, return to work and to start thinking about what the options were for his future. I’m happy to report that 18 months on, the client remains a regular and has a renewed social life.   

‘We all approach problems differently, so there is no perfect formula for every client you work with. However, in my experience as a massage therapist, it can be easier for people to speak to someone outside of their social circle, and it might help that you are never looking directly at each other, for example when they are lying on their front speaking through a couch face hole! This means that complementary therapists can play a key role in dealing with the mental wellness of our clients, as well as the physical.’

Beverly Chilson is an occupational therapist who has been working in a palliative care ward since 2003. Beverly also qualified as a Level 4 Sports Massage Therapist in 2017 and runs her own therapy practice, Milestone Therapy Centre.

FHT members can access the full Man Kind feature at fht.org.uk/international-therapist-archive

Benefits of a short digital detox

From checking on family members to updating our social media feeds, and even turning on the lights in our house, we all rely on technology to some extent.

The benefits of taking a digital detox has long been reported with wellbeing guru’s and medical professionals such as nutritional therapist, Madeleine Shaw, Deliciously Ella’s Ella Mills and Dr Chatterjee communicating its benefits.

Dr Chatterjee is a big advocate for taking some time away from your tech. After his digital detox in 2018, he wrote, ‘I have recognised that I need some down time so have decided to take a complete break from social media for the next seven days.

‘I will be deleting the apps from my phone and trying my best to ‘switch off’. As mentioned in my book, I advocate regular breaks from the ‘online world’ – if you have never tried it, I urge you to try, even if only for a few hours.’

The benefits to a digital detox seem endless but to name a few, it can help us to focus on mindful activities, improves our sleep, helps our overall mental health.

Though the thought of an extended period of time without our devices sounds wonderful, we know this can be a difficult adjustment. This is why we are encouraging our members to join us in a weekend digital detox, to down our phones and laptops and head outside to embrace the change in the seasons.

Read a recent study on the benefits of digital detoxes.

WRW: Stress and reflexology

In an article contributed to International Therapist Autumn 2017, Dr Carol Samuel, looks at how reflexology can support clients living with stress and pain.

Reflexology has been proven to help people living with acute and chronic stress by helping to relax the body and mind. During this incredibly difficult time, many people are dealing with additional stress and visiting a therapist for a reflexology treatment can be a fantastic way to help manage stress and anxiety.

In her feature, Dr Samuel shares a case study of a 34-year-old primary school teacher who required treatment for left-sided shoulder pain caused by a whiplash injury in 2009. She explains that although the initial cause of the injury was whiplash, the body held onto the memory of that incident, both physically and emotionally, long after the pain experience had ended.

Dr Carol Samuel writes, ‘The treatment sessions focused on lots
of relaxation, providing a quiet space for the client to release both verbally and emotionally without judgement. I used a combination of nerve reflexology, classic foot reflexology and linking techniques.

‘When stress is involved in an illness it is important to work the limbic system to access the emotions and the autonomic nervous system to promote allostasis.’

Read the full feature as published in International Therapist (Autumn 2017, issue 122)

In the next issue of International Therapist magazine, Dr Rachael Waston, looks at the physiology behind pain and how complementary therapies can help clients living with pain. Issue 134 of International Therapist is due to land on members doorsteps on 16 October 2020.

WRW: Accredited course provider Marie Duggan shares reflexology case study

Marie Duggan, accredited course provider at Butterfly Touch Therapies shares a case study for World Reflexology Week (21-25 September).

*Please note, the details in this case study were recorded pre-COVID-19 and Marie’s client’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

‘I received a phone call from Alice asking to book in for a reflexology session’, Marie writes. ‘Upon her arrival I carried out a client consultation, Alice was 70 and in good health but had been widowed 12 months prior. Alice answered all the consultation questions in a flat, controlled way. With no outward show of emotions, she explained how she had woken up to find her husband had died in his sleep beside her as a result of an embolism.

‘Alice explained how she could not grieve and was struggling to release her emotions, she felt she could not cry or talk to anyone about her loss. In fact, she admitted to not really wanting to discuss her feelings with others and just felt in a continual fog she could not find her way out of.

‘She had been on anti-depressants from her doctor and had attended months of individual and group counselling. She said neither of these approaches had helped, she was respectful of the counsellor but said the sessions left her feeling more disconnected and decided to discontinue with both.

‘I asked her ‘why Reflexology?’ Alice answered she did not know why she was coming but felt drawn to it. I explained I was not a counsellor, but I would hope reflexology would relax her system and help her reconnect with her heart. She said she was realistic and had no expectations but would like to be able to relax her mind if possible. Alice requested no music, just silence throughout the session and of course I obliged. We agreed to a treatment once a week and to assess a month later.

‘On the first treatment I started by holding Alice’s ankles, a technique I learned during my craniosacral therapy training. I found it a powerful tool to assess a client’s life force before and after treatments. I stand at the end of the bed, gently cup my hands around the ankles and slowly lift the feet a few inches off the bed. By softening my back, shoulders and hands I am holding and supporting but with the gentlest of touches. My immediate impression was how tightly held Alice’s system and energy was. At first it was barely detectable but after a few minutes I could feel her energy flicker and connect, it was slow and sluggish and I felt the sense of the deep shock her system was holding. I waited until I felt a softening, I refer to this as a meeting of energy, an unspoken surrendering. Once this happens, I begin.  

‘I adapt my reflexology treatment to a gentle and light pressure feeling this lady needed a caring and nurturing touch. Alice’s feet are pale and cold to the touch despite being a warm day. I have found over the years my reflexology has evolved to incorporate a deeper listening of the feet. I find the lungs are being tightly and rigidly held, so I spend some time working the lungs, shoulders, arms and the breast area, finishing by sandwiching with both hands the dorsal and plantar of these areas. As I hold, I feel her energy increase and flow, the foot has become warmer and more flexible.

‘I continue to further her relaxation by working the head and spine, incorporating spinal twists. I am aware of a lower vibrancy in the cervical, lumbar and coccyx reflexes and work the head and neck more before placing one finger and thumb at either side of the base of the big toe. This is a holding touch I have always found immensely powerful; you are holding at the neck (occipital area) and throat. If you were to visualise holding someone physically you would be cupping your hands under their head. I feel a release and energy starts to flow again.

‘It is only now that I feel I can work the heart, solar plexus and adrenals. All of these are a gentle touch, at times I decide to softly pump the area, creating a rhythm. I finish working these reflexes by holding the heart and solar plexus together. For the rest of the treatment I continue to work the whole foot before crossing over to repeat this on the left foot. At the end of the treatment I hold again at the heels and listen to the feet. The vibrancy has changed, although it is still slow and gentle, the energy now flows with ease, the feet have colour and are warmer.  

‘Alice’s feedback is that she is sleeping better, all her treatments are in silence. I ask her at the end of every treatment how she feels, and she tells me more relaxed. Her energy and vibrancy continue to improve and responds well to this gentle approach. In her fourth session Alice allows tears to gently flow, she keeps her eyes closed and does not speak. I hand her tissues and continue with the treatment. This happens for many more weeks with Alice releasing her emotions in a gentle way with no verbal exchange; she is grieving in her own way.

‘After eight sessions we decide to have treatments every two weeks and then once a month. I was aware of how much lighter she is and that she is interacting more with me and the world. When Alice had been coming to me for nine months, she said one day “Marie, I feel so much better, this has really helped me so much and I feel I want to get back into life again”. Alice then asked me if I knew of a good beautician she could go to and I knew my work was done. The power of the feet.’

Download your free promotional materials for World Reflexology Week 2020.

Gardens and outdoor spaces important for mental health

A new report released by the National Gardens Scheme has found that spending time in a garden can improve mental health. It emphasises the vital role that spending time outdoors played during the lockdown period in March and April.

The report brought together feedback from garden owners, people who had made use of the organisation’s virtual garden visits and an online survey conducted in August 2020.

Over 2,000 people responded with 92% saying their gardens and outdoor spaces were ‘extremely important’ to them during lockdown in terms of health and wellbeing. All of the respondents (100%) who were living in an urban or suburban environment during the lockdown period reported that spending time on their balconies or tending to window boxes helped to reduce their stress.

Chief Executive of the National Garden Scheme said, ‘Anecdotally, from the responses we received to our virtual garden visits during lockdown, we knew that gardens (real and virtual) were playing a significant and important role in people’s lives. In August, to back this up, we ran an online survey entitled ‘The importance of our gardens and outdoor spaces during lockdown’. ‘

Read the full report.

Black, asian and ethnic minority staff share their experiences of working within the NHS

In our next issue of International Therapist magazine (Autumn 2020, Issue 134) we explore equality, diversity and inclusivity within the complementary therapy and wellness industries.

The Kings Fund recently shared an article which explores people’s experiences of racism and discrimination within the NHS. It begins with a story shared by Angela who works in behavioural science. Angela said, ‘I’ve got people who are managing me who are racist, my manage holds me back, stops me getting opportunities that are given to my white counterparts who are maybe not as experienced as me.’

They include some interesting statistics on this, according to the latest WRES data, white staff are 15 per cent more likely to access non-mandatory training than their colleagues from an ethnic minority background. In the 2019 NHS Staff Survey, 15.3 per cent of ethnic minority staff reported experiencing discrimination at work from a manager, team leader or other colleague in the past year, this figure was more than double the proportion of white staff.

What are your views on equality and diversity within the industry? We would love to hear from you, email Leanne Sheill at lsheill@fht.org.uk.

Read the full news item as featured on the kingsfund.org.uk

How to recycle your used PPE

Single-use PPE falls currently under ‘non-recyclable waste’ in traditional recycling centres and until now there hasn’t been an easy option for safely disposing used PPE.

Recycling company, Terracycle, have created an innovative system that means one-time use face masks and disposable gloves can be recycled.

With Terracycle’s Zero Waste Box system, customers pay a small fee for a box to where they can dispose of their single-use PPE. Once filled, this box can be sent back to Terracycle to sort and recycle.

One sorted, the collected PPE is grouped and cleaned before being melted into pellets which are distributed to third parties who make new products using them. Examples of the products made include bins, watering cans and storage containers.

Find out more about the Zero Waste Box system.

Celebrating National Massage day and Pro-Touch Awareness month

This year National Massage Day (NMD) will be held on 1 October, coinciding with Pro-Touch Awareness Month, which runs throughout October.

This year the focus has been shifted from encouraging people to ‘join the hands-on revolution’ to taking a look at how we can touch the lives of others when physical touch is no longer possible.

Organised by Liz Badger, founder of The Therapist Business Club and Face The World, the aim of these two initiatives is to raise awareness about the many benefits of complementary therapies, and ultimately the importance connection.

Anyone interested in getting involved is encouraged to share any free and online information on the following subjects –

  • Combating loneliness and help for when self-isolating
  • Self-care tips for mental health
  • Online help for supporting clients
  • As always, examples of volunteering, paying it forward and supporting others.

Please note: when sharing information it needs to be in the form of a link and free of charge/public e.g blog posts, on-line videos, downloadable free e-books or podcasts etc. They will be tagged into a free Facebook library as an inspiring resource for everyone to access and share.

For therapists wanting to get involved, there is a range of support materials available at protouchawarenessmonth.co.uk, including a special Facebook group, where members are invited to share any information they have.