Long Covid Research

We take a look at two pilot studies looking into complementary therapy approaches to support clients with symptoms of long Covid

The Anosmia, Acupressure, Aromastick and Aromapot Project

By project leads, Dr Peter Mackereth, Paula Maycock and Ann Carter

Before COVID 19 emerged, anosmia (the inability to detect odours) was a relatively unknown term outside of medicine; however, olfactory disorders are not new health concerns. Nasal polyps, enlarged turbinates*, as well as degenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s can result in difficulties to detect odours. Patients who have had laryngectomies or tracheotomies may also experience hyposmia (decreased ability to detect odours) due to a reduced or absent nasal airflow. Head trauma and local disease, such as cancer (and some cancer treatments), can be linked with long-term disorders of taste and smell.

For several years, our project team has worked in cancer care with patients experiencing symptoms such as anosmia and xerostomia (dry mouth) – often referred to as ‘difficult to treat’ concerns. To help ease these distressing side-effects of treatment, with some success, we have used various therapies such as acupuncture/acupressure, massage, essential oils and reflexology, often in combination.

The challenge is that most of these symptoms require a series of treatment combinations and ongoing advice and self-care. What we do know is that these challenging symptoms can affect quality of life, in particular depressing a cancer patient’s mood and reducing their appetite (Bernhardson et al, 2009).

Long COVID patients can ill afford the detrimental effects of anosmia, which is often experienced alongside fatigue, breathlessness, muscle and joint pain and insomnia. As therapists, we know that interventions that combine touch techniques with aromatherapy can have benefits on wellbeing. From our review of the literature, we have found that even odour-evoked memories can alter mood and be useful for helping with psychological and physical health concerns (Carter et al, 2019). For someone who has altered ability to smell, even using regular recall of an aroma could be potentially of benefit.

Importantly, there are many factors that can increase and decrease nasal resistance. Both smoking and alcohol increase nasal resistance, as does infective rhinitis – all can compromise the ability to detect odours. Research studies have shown that marked sensation of increased airflow was demonstrated when substances such as camphor, eucalyptus, L-menthol, vanilla, or lignocaine were applied to the nasal mucosa (Chaaban & Corey, 2011).

In the last 12 months, our team has embarked on a pilot project with volunteers. The process seeks to evaluate the combination of twice daily aroma trainings, using three separate pots, each with a pad infused with a different single essential oil. Prior to the inhalations from each of the three aromapots, the volunteers are asked to carry out a tapping routine of specific acupressure points which link to olfaction and gustatory function. During the day, our participants supplement this routine with using an aromastick with the same combination of essential oils used in the three pots. Participants are advised to hold the aromastick 2 to 6cms away from the nostrils, then use a gentle breathing technique, which we call ‘3 Breaths to Calm’. This involves breathing in through the nose and then out through the mouth (Carter & Mackereth, 2019). Usually, this activity can be done before a coffee or tea break and before lunch, so approximately three times a day, linked to consumption of food and drink.

Using questionnaires, we are collecting data at the start of an individual’s personal project and after five weeks of adhering to the routine. Our initial pilot work with six participants revealed improvements in anosmia after three to four weeks of using the protocol. We are also intending to gather qualitative data via interviews with volunteers about the experience of living with anosmia and using our aromatherapy and acupuncture protocol. Our purpose in using the protocol is to stimulate the participants’ parasympathetic response to the triggers of selected aromas, combined with gentle acupressure, so promoting olfactory and gustatory function. Currently we have four students, all aromatherapists, from our recent online ‘Therapeutic Uses of Aromasticks and Aromapots’ course assisting with the project.

We hope to present our work in 2022, once the data has been collected from a larger sample.

*Turbinates are several thin bony elongated ridges forming the upper chambers of the nasal cavities – these increase the surface area allowing for rapid warming and humidification of inhaled air.

Dr Peter Mackereth was the clinical lead of the complementary therapy and wellbeing service at The Christie for more than 15 years. He is currently an honorary researcher and lecturer at The Christie and a volunteer therapist at St Ann’s Hospice. Paula Maycock is a senior complementary therapist at The Christie, Manchester. Ann Carter has worked as a complementary therapist and teacher since 1989 in hospices and the acute sector.

Bowen therapy study

By project lead, Jo Wortley

In February 2021, I joined forces with Dianne Bradshaw* to launch a quantitative observational study that would look at whether Bowen therapy might prove a helpful intervention in improving the symptoms and wellbeing of people affected by long COVID.

The initial aim was to recruit 60 to 70 qualified Bowen practitioners, who would provide a series of six weekly Bowen sessions to self-elected clients (participants) who had been experiencing symptoms of long COVID for six months or more and were eligible to take part in the study. Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP) questionnaires were to be completed by each participant, with all of the Bowen practitioners taking part receiving online training to help them understand the aims and objectives of the study and how to use the MYMOP questionnaires appropriately, in order for the data to be valid.

As with many complementary therapy interventions, in a ‘real world’ situation, Bowen sessions are adapted to meet the needs and presenting symptoms of the individual client, which may change from one session to the next. For this reason, the Bowen practitioners taking part were not required to follow a ‘standardized’ treatment, however they were asked to only use moves learned during their core Bowen training (modules 1 to 5).

At the time of writing (December 2021), I am pleased to report that 30 practitioners managed to complete a series of six treatments with at least one study participant, producing a total of 26 valid sets of data. While I am yet to fully collate and compare the data, the initial results look very promising, with the majority of participants seeing an improvement in one or both symptoms that they were seeking help with, as identified in their MYMOP questionnaires. When comparing data taken from Weeks 1 and Weeks 7 only:

  • 14 out of 15 participants reported an improvement in their fatigue;
  • 12 out of 14 participants reported an improvement in their mobility (walking, jogging or running);
  • 20 out of 22 participants reported an improvement in their general wellbeing 

While these results look very positive, we do need to understand what happens to people who have no intervention over a 7-week period, to establish whether this is ‘normal’ recovery.

It was also very pleasing to see that the vast majority (22 out of 24) also highly recommended Bowen, rating it between 8 and 10 out of 10.

While it’s involved a lot of time and effort, it’s exciting to be leading the way with this study and once it has been published, I will of course ensure that FHT members are made aware of the key outcomes. Although this study obviously focuses on Bowen therapy, it is important that as a community of professional therapists, we all share as much information and best practice as we can, to ensure the long-term safety of our clients and to also demonstrate the potential role that therapies may have in helping to support clients with long COVID, where appropriate.

* Dianne, an experienced Bowen and McTimoney practitioner who worked on both humans and animals, sadly passed away several months after the study was launched. 

Jo Wortley is a Director and Senior Tutor at the College of Bowen Studies, which offers an FHT accredited practitioner qualification in the Bowen Technique, alongside a range of Bowen masterclasses. thebowentechnique.com

Quote of the week

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Looking to make your therapy business more eco-friendly? We look at a few suggestions that could help to protect the planet and show your clients that you care (Article first published in International Therapist, Issue 128, Spring 2019): fht.org.uk/green-salon

#OBWW19 #oneSmallSwap #OrganicSeptember #OrganicSkincare

Discussing pain perception at an FHT local group

Hereford local group

During our previous meeting, we had a fascinating talk on rethinking pain by Lin Leong, a neurophysiotherapist and yoga teacher, writes Hereford group coordinator Carina Stinchcombe.

Lin gave us an overview of the mechanisms active in persistent pain. As our collective understanding of pain perception develops, it seems that tissue damage, misalignment or degradation are not sufficient explanations in the treatment of persistent pain. Applying the biopsychosocial model to understanding pain, we considered strategies beyond tissue release and remedial action, to support clients with persistent pain.

In practice, it can be confusing for a bodyworker to apply a biopsychosocial model to their treatments. A helpful shift is to emphasise the value of validating a client’s experience, using empowering language and creating a safe environment where a client needs to relearn a pain habit. We can also sometimes help a client to identify factors that may increase pain perception, for instance, fear avoidance, leading to habitual and unhelpful movement strategies, tiredness, loneliness, stressful work conditions, anxiety and depression. Many people won’t have made these connections for themselves, so we can use our own treatments and referral networks to help clients access strategies to help with the reduction of pain.

Because translating this theory into practice is so multifaceted, we couldn’t cover applications in much depth, so we plan to have another session later in the year.

Find your local group and feel part of a therapy community!

Local groups are a valuable hub for all those with a passion for therapies. Come along to hear from excellent speakers about the latest therapies and business ideas, take part in outings and social events, enjoy treatment swaps and share best practice.

We hope you enjoyed this article, which was first published in the Summer 2019 issue of International Therapist!

International Therapist is the FHT’s membership magazine. Published on a quarterly basis, it offers a broad range of articles – from aromatherapy and electrolysis, to sports injuries and regulation updates. The magazine is a membership benefit and is not available off-the-shelf or by subscription.

Join today to start receiving the leading magazine for professional therapists.

Complementary therapy gaining popularity in England

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The article below was first published in International Therapist issue 129 (Summer 2019)

Complementary therapy use in England has grown by 4% between 2005 and 2015, according to a national survey (sharp et al, 2018).

Ipsos MORI asked 4,862 adults in England about their complementary therapy use over the past 12 months, with 766 saying they had seen a practitioner during that time. This means 16% of respondents had treatments in 2015, up from 12% in 2005.

Those interviewed visited practitioners for therapies including massage, acupuncture, yoga, reflexology and mindfulness. They most commonly sought treatments to help with musculoskeletal conditions (68%), particularly back pain (38%). The second most popular reason was support with a mental health condition (12%), including for stress, anxiety or depression (7%) and sleep problems, tiredness or fatigue (4%). Around 11% had therapies to support general wellbeing and prevent ill health.

However, because therapies are predominantly self-funded, access is unequal, with wealthier people far more likely to get the support they need compared with people on a low income. More than two-thirds (67%) of complementary therapy users either pay for their treatments or have them paid for by friends and family, while 17% are referred by their GP and 4% by another health professional. Those who were referred by a GP or healthcare professional usually had treatments funded by the NHS and were more often than not unemployed, with lower socioeconomic status. Almost 40% felt that increased NHS funding and GP referrals and/or endorsement would increase their complementary therapy use.

Those in the south of England were almost twice as likely to have treatments as people living in the Midlands or the north of England. This could again relate to wealth, as the average person living in the south is more likely to have the disposable income to pay for treatments than those further north.

Just over one-fifth of respondents (22%) claimed they would not be willing to pay for a therapy treatment.

Read more about the survey at fht.org.uk/IT-129-research-Sharp

Not yet an FHT member?

Join today and enjoy more articles like this in our online reading room and quarterly membership magazine, International Therapist. As a member, you can access lots of other benefits, too, such as tailor-made insurance policies and a listing on our Accredited Register of complementary therapists, independently approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (eligibility criteria apply). Click here to learn more about the benefits of being an FHT member

 

Complementary therapies are beneficial to people with advanced cancer

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The article below was first published in International Therapist issue 129 (Summer 2019)

Aromatherapy, reflexology and massage can all benefit clients with advanced cancer, according to a review published in Palliative Medicine.

Searching medical databases, a team of researchers found five qualitative studies evaluating the therapeutic needs of people in palliative care with advanced cancer, which provide evidence of the benefits of therapies.

They examined three ‘analytical themes’: the patient experience during the therapy (enhanced wellbeing and escapism), beyond the complementary therapy session (lasting benefits and overall evaluation), and the delivery of complementary therapy in palliative care (value of therapist and delivery of the complementary therapy).

The results showed that people with advanced cancer experienced benefits from aromatherapy, reflexology and massage, including enhanced wellbeing, respite and escapism from their disease.

Access the review abstract at fht.org.uk/IT-129-cancer-therapies

Not yet an FHT member?

Join today and enjoy more articles like this in our online reading room and quarterly membership magazine, International Therapist. As a member, you can access lots of other benefits, too, such as tailor-made insurance policies and a listing on our Accredited Register of complementary therapists, independently approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (eligibility criteria apply). Click here to learn more about the benefits of being an FHT member

International Therapist Issue 129 (Summer 2019)

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This issue includes articles on the following:

  • Aromatic memories, by Peter Mackereth, Ann Carter and Paula Maycock;
  • Tennis injuries and prevention strategies, by Lance Doggart and Sarah Catlow;
  • The effects of sleep on the skin, by FHT;
  • A mindful approach to the menopause, by Clarissa Kristjansson;
  • Home-made cleaning products, using essential oils, by Sharon Lovett;
  • Chapman’s Reflexes and techniques for tight muscles, by Paula Nutting;
  • Exercises for protecting the hands and wrists, by Ross Clifford; and
  • A look ahead at the 2019 FHT Conference.

Plus an essential oil profile on sweet fennel; the latest FHT local group news; a day in the life of Sal Hanvey, a complementary therapist and magazine writer; the latest research; expert advice; medical A-Z; an interview with Georgia Barnes, Business Development Manager for Health and Beauty at Soil Association Certification; a look at the 2019 FHT Training Congress; public affairs and lots more…

Don’t miss the opportunity to win a WaveStone Therapies Relaxing Balm in our members’ competition and a £20 John Lewis & Partners gift card and FHT scented therapy room candle in the latest spiral quiz.

Landing from Thursday 18 July. You can also login to read this issue (from Thursday 18 July) and past issues online at fht.org.uk/membersarea

Making International Therapist more environmentally friendly

As many of you are aware, FHT’s membership magazine, International Therapist, is produced by printers that have FSC® chain of custody certification to ensure that materials used are tracked from well-managed forests to the consumer. They also use efficient processes to reduce the consumption of energy and water, and inks that are vegetable-based. And while the poly wrap your magazine currently arrives in can be recycled at many of the larger supermarkets, we appreciate that the idea is to avoid using plastic wherever possible.

Potato starch wrap

Environmentally-friendly wrapper

For some time, we’ve been looking into more environmentally friendly ways to distribute International Therapist to our members and we are delighted to now use a biodegradable wrap that is made from potato starch. The wrapper contains no plasticisers or toxins and as a result, it is 100% biodegradable… under the right conditions.

In order for the potato starch wrapper to break down effectively, it needs to be disposed in either a home composting bin or, where accepted by local authorities, in food waste recycling or green bins. As far as we are aware, placing the wrapper into a standard waste bin will drastically hinder its ability to biodegrade. So, in order for this greener alternative to poly wrap to be truly environmentally friendly, we need your support at the end of the chain!

Please talk to us…

The potato starch wrapper is opaque/milky in colour rather than completely see-through and is now used for every copy of International Therapist that we send out to our members. Please get in touch and let us know that your magazine has arrived safely and any feedback that you have. We’d also like to know if it is easy for you to dispose of the wrapper, either in a home compost bin or in your food recycling or green bin. Please email us at communications@fht.org.uk

We ♥ our planet

In the spring issue of International Therapist, our Green Salon article focused on how you can make your therapy business more eco-friendly but, what about the FHT? How are we working to protect the planet?

Thanks to Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentaries and climate activist Greta Thunberg, the public is much more aware of the devastating effects material consumption is having on our planet. We too are embracing the principles of sustainability here at the FHT…

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We source your membership magazine, International Therapist, and your welcome pack from printers that have FSC ® chain of custody certification to ensure that materials are tracked from well-managed forests to the consumer. They also use efficient processes to reduce the consumption of energy and water, inks are vegetable-based and cartridges are recycled. In addition, your membership cards are made with SICOECO, which is fully degradable. SICOECO has the same technical properties, physical characteristics and printability like other PVC films but fully degrades when left in organic compost.

Following a successful trial run, we’re also pleased to be sending out all copies of International Therapist in a biodegradable wrapper, which is 100% compostable, from Autumn 2019. Please dispose of the magazine wrapper in your home compost heap, or in food or garden waste bins where accepted by local authorities (do not place in plastic recycling).

This is a start but there is much more to do. For example, using email rather than post, wherever possible, and making our building and processes more sustainable with green energy tariffs and plastic-free packaging.

We’re pleased to be making a more conscious effort to protect the planet.

To find out how you can get involved, read our Green Salon article here

 

Yoga could help with depression during pregnancy

Yoga pregnancyYoga-based therapies can help manage antenatal depression, according to a review published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

A team of scientists in the UK and Singapore conducted a systematic review of six clinical studies, involving 405 pregnant mothers, that examined the effects of yoga on depression during pregnancy.

All six studies showed reductions in depression scores, indicating that yoga is a ‘promising non-pharmalogical modality’ for improving the psychological health of expectant mothers.

Participants recruited for the trials reported mild depressive systems, therefore larger studies may be needed to examine the effects of yoga on severe prenatal depression.

Read the review at fht.org.uk/IT-128-yoga-pregnancy

We hope you enjoyed this article, which was first published in the Spring 2019 issue of International Therapist!

Not yet an FHT member?

Join today and enjoy more articles like this in our online reading room and quarterly membership magazine, International Therapist. As a member, you can access lots of other benefits, too, such as tailor-made insurance policies and a listing on our Accredited Register of complementary therapists, independently approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (eligibility criteria apply). Click here to learn more about the benefits of being an FHT member

 

 

Body positivity and mindful eating discussed at Hereford FHT Local Support Group meeting

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Twenty people attended a fantastic talk by Lisa Beasley on body image and mindful eating, writes Hereford FHT Local Support Group coordinator Carina Jones.

Lisa’s Bristol-based company, My Body Positive, runs talks and workshops to help women step out of the diet culture and embrace a person-centred, empowering model of food awareness. By placing physical health and self-esteem rather than weight loss at the heart of the process, she helps to build a sustainable and guilt-free relationship with the food women eat and helps them to understand their personal cycles with food behaviour.

Clearly, a 90-minute talk didn’t give us all the answers, but it certainly raised a lot of questions; everyone had such a lot to think about as we unpicked the messages that we give and receive constantly about food, weight and body image.

When the question of weight, health or body image arises in our treatments it can be difficult to know how to respond. I am often taken aback by the body shaming language that clients use about their own bodies and wish I could do more to reframe the conversation. We need to shift the focus from weight to health and replace shame with support. There is much work needed to counteract the insidious and persistent fat-fearing and fat-shaming language that exists not just in the media but in the medical profession too.

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Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that some diseases and conditions are not caused or worsened by poor lifestyle choices and excessive weight. However, there are more pertinent truths that this kind of one-dimensional coverage neglects that weight alone is a poor indicator of overall health, that fat-shaming and fat-fearing does a lot of damage and does not inspire positive lifestyle choices, and that shame does not help people lose weight or become healthier.

Treating people as individuals, compassionately listening and helping to build self-esteem and self-worth provides a much better foundation from which to empower people to make sustainable and lifelong positive lifestyle decisions. From here it is left for us to consider how we can build into our practice and conversations with clients, messages that contribute to a more positive dialogue about larger bodies.

FHT members can read more articles about body image, by logging in to fht.org.uk/members-area and typing ‘body image’ in the search bar on the top left-hand side.

Find your local group and feel part of a therapy community!

Local groups are a valuable hub for all those with a passion for therapies. Come along to hear from excellent speakers about the latest therapies and business ideas, take part in outings and social events, enjoy treatment swaps and share best practice.

 

We hope you enjoyed this article, which was first published in the Winter 2019 issue of International Therapist!

International Therapist is the FHT’s membership magazine. Published on a quarterly basis, it offers a broad range of articles – from aromatherapy and electrolysis, to sports injuries and regulation updates. The magazine is a membership benefit and is not available off-the-shelf or by subscription.

Join today to start receiving the leading magazine for professional therapists.