Pathology – C for Massage Therapists


Definition: a malignant growth or disease of the blood, connective tissue, bones, lymphatic system

Causes: Environmental factors, diet, alcohol consumption, high fat diets, low fiber diets, free radical damage

Signs/Symptoms: too many to mention; bruising, enlarged lymph nodes, sores that do not heal, weight loss, fatigue, low back pain, indigestion, lump or tumor under skin

Indications: Massage is ok for people with cancer.  Check with their Doctor if you are unsure of anything.

Contraindications:  It used to be thought that massage would spread cancer, but that notion is now obsolete.  Consult with referring physician and client get permission from both. Refer to Naturopath and/or acupuncturist for immune support, cleansing and nutritional counseling. Get training in Oncology Massage.


Clinical Massage Section on Cancer – Cheryl Chapman is a pioneer in massage for Cancer and Mastectomy.

Medicine Hands: Massage for People Living with Cancer: A Basic Training Course for Massage Practitioners and Students, Bodyworkers, and Other Professional Touch Therapists by Gayle MacDonald

Debra Curtis – Breast Massage for Cancer classes

Breast Massage and Cancer

Cancer and Massage Facts – Tracy Walton

Easing Cancer Pain and Anxiety : The Value of a Good Foot Rub By Shirley Vanderbilt Bodywork for Cancer Patients : The Need for a Less-Demanding Approach – Massage and Bodywork Magazine By Gayle MacDonald

Massage Therapy for Cancer : Susan G. Salvo Louisiana Institute of Massage Therapy

Cancer and Massage, The Courage to Touch Massage and Bodywork Magazine

Massage Reduces Cancer Symptoms- Massage Magazine

Aromatherapy and Massage Improve Sleep in Advanced Cancer Patients- Massage Magazine

Massage and Healing Touch Ease Cancer Symptoms- Massage Magazine

Massage Boosts Mood and Benefits Immune Function in Children with Leukemia- Massage Magazine

A Study of Foot Massage and Cancer Symptoms – By Tracy Walton, LMT, Ms

Easing Cancer Pain and Anxiety The Value of a Good Foot Rub By Shirley Vanderbilt

Developments in Oncology Massage – By Tracy Walton, LMT, Ms
Studying the Benefits of Massage for Advanced Cancer Patients – By Julie Engebretson, Associate Editor

Learning From the Largest Study on Cancer and Massage By Tracy Walton, LMT, Ms

Steve Dunn’s Alternative Cancer Treatment pages

Bodywork & Visualization Therapy for People With Cancer – Four Pillars, Two Hands, One Goal By Sabino L. Manzulli, LMT
Hands of Medicine Oncology Patients Find Relief in Bodywork By Lonnie Howard, MA, LMT

Massage and Cancer Ask a Therapist By Gayle MacDonaldOncology: Bodywork for Cancer Patients The Need for a Less-Demanding Approach By Gayle MacDonald

Oncology: Cancer and Human Connection The Making of an Oncology Massage Therapist By Shirley Vanderbilt

Massage and the Cancer Patient The Courage of Touch – By Kieran McConnellogue

Holistic Massage and One Breast Cancer Patient – Diane’s Story By Joseph Feldman, M.A., C.P.C., L.M.T.

Cancer, Radiation and Massage The Benefits and Cautions – By Gayle MacDonald
Coming Back from Cancer Treatment Water Fitness Therapies By Mary Essert

AMTA online classes on cancer and massage

Carpal Tunnel

Definition: Inflammation in tendon sheaths in the carpal tunnel that compresses the median nerve in the wrist (supplies sensation to the thumb, forefinger, middle finger and half of ring finger)

Causes: Subluxation of carpal bones, bone spurs, sustained wrist flexion, inflammatory arthritis, water retention, tendinitis, repetitive stress syndrome, misalignment of hands while performing repetitive tasks such as computer work, carpentry, massage; Other injuries to the neck, shoulder, wrist, may be present. Factors that increase chances of getting carpal tunnel include menopause, pregnancy, Raynaud’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism and diabetes mellitus.

Signs/Symptoms: mild numbness and faint tingling to excruciating pain and atrophy of the muscles of the thumb; reduced fine motor skills, burning, tingling, numbness in the thumb and 1st three fingers (never the little finger ); feels like pins and needles, falling asleep, weakening of the thumb; symptoms often worse at night or in the morning when circulation is reduced.  Pain may spread to forearm and shoulder; symptoms may be confused with thoracic outlet syndrome or may be due to ulnar nerve  entrapment in elbow. Tap on wrist nerve to elicit symptoms.  Diagnosis is through a nerve conduction test.

Indications: Massage is necessary to heal this condition.  Check alignment of shoulder, elbow and wrist.  Release adhesions in forearm flexors, skin rolling. Retinaculum release at wrist. Stretching, posture and ergonomics should be addressed. Muscles involved are the Flexor Digitorum Superficialis, Flexor Digitorum Profundus, Flexor Pollicis Longus and Pronator Quadratus

Contraindications: Refer to physician for diagnosis to determine if it is neuritis or neuralgia. Naturopath can recommend supplements such as B6 to reduce water retention and other anti-inflammatory reactions and reduce oxalic acid consumption. Acupuncture also recommended.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Prescription for Relief By Michael Young, NCTMB

Conscious Bodywork – Unraveling Carpal Tunnel Syndrome By David Weinstock
Massage for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Repetitive Stress Injuries Ways to Avoid and Work with it from a Rolfer’s Perspective – By Siana Goodwin

Therapist to Therapist: CPS Russian Sports Massage for Violinists’ Carpal Tunnel Syndrome By Zhenya Kurashova Wine Neuromuscular Reprogramming for Rehab The Missing Link By Jocelyn Olivier
Basic Clinical Massage Therapy: Integrating Anatomy and Treatment (Lww Massage Therapy & Bodywork Series) (Hardcover) – by James H. Clay, David M. Pounds

Clinical Massage Therapy: Understanding, Assessing and Treating Over 70 Conditions (Paperback)
by Fiona Rattray (Author), Linda Ludwig (Author)

Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual (2-Volume Set) (Hardcover) – by David G. Simons, Janet G. Travell, Lois S. Simons, Barbara D. Cummings


Definition: Mass of connected boils

Causes: same as boils

Indications: Massage ok, may assist healing

Contraindications: Avoid inflamed area and direct pressure on carbuncle

Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease, Part 1: What Is Going On Here? By Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB  Part 2

Cerebral palsy

Definition: Group of motor disorders

Causes: damage to motor areas of brain; could be inutero, during birth or infancy; May be due to mother having German measles, radiation: temporary oxygen deprivation in birth or hydrocephalus in infancy

Signs/Symptoms: Appear to be mentally retarded but are usually more capable than they appear;

Indications: massage for relaxation

Contraindications: Check with physician

Cerbrovascular Accidents (CVA/Stroke)

Definition: Damage to the brain due to lack of oxygen.

Causes: Atherosclerosis, embolisms (blood clot, air bubble, or debris from inflammation), intercerebral hemorrhage( rupture of vessel in the pia matter or brain)

Signs/Symptoms: Weakness or paralysis, headache, numbness, blurred or double vision, blurred speech, confusion, dizziness, difficulty speaking or understanding; usually affecting one side of the body.   People at risk usually have high blood pressure, smoke, high cholesterol, high alcohol consumption, obese, diabetes, stress.

Indications: Massage ok for recovery; stress reduction

Contraindications: Work with physician : refer to appropriate health care practitioner for diet and lifestyle modifications and treatment of underlying conditions.  May be on blood thinner medications. Acupuncture has assisted in recovery of speech, motor function.

Massage Benefits Stroke Patients

Massage Today – Pictures of results of using massage with stroke patients.
Stroke Rehab, Part 1 An Overview By Dietrich W. Miesler, MA, CMT

Stroke Rehab, Part 2 Coming Back By Dietrich W. Miesler, MA, CMT
Stroke Rehab, Part 3 Getting to Work By Dietrich W. Miesler, MA, CMT

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Definition: persistent fatigue that does not resolve with bed rest.

Causes: may be linked to Epstein-Barr virus, immune system problem, anemia, chronic mercury poisoning from dental fillings, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, candida overgrowth, sleep problems, poor nutrition, stress, poor nutrition.

Signs/Symptoms: aching muscles and joints, anxiety , depression, fever, headaches, intestinal problems, irritability, loss of appetite, muscle spasms, upper respiratory infections that reoccur, sore throat, swollen glands, temporary memory loss, sleep disturbances, fatigue.

Indications: Massage to relieve stress and muscle pain.

Contraindications: Fever. Check medications for possible contraindications; Refer to appropriate health care practitioner for diet and lifestyle changes.

fibromyalgia Clinical massage for fibromyalgia

Digital Naturopath – Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue

Fibromyalgia Syndrome: A Practitioner’s Guide to Treatment – by Leon Chaitow

Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Chronic Pain and CranioSacral Therapy, Part 2 , Part 1 – By Tad Wanveer, LMT, CST-D; guest author for John Upledger, DO, OMM

Cirrhosis of the liver

Definition: Degenerative inflammatory disease that results in hardening and scarring of liver cells.

Causes: Excessive alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis, malnutrition and chronic inflammation.

Signs/Symptoms: Constipation or diarrhea, fever, upset stomach, dull heavy ache in upper right quadrant of abdomen, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, weight loss, enlarged liver, vomiting, red palms, jaundice, anemia, bruising.

Indications: Massage for stress reduction and detoxification

Contraindications: Work with Physicians supervision in advanced stages

Colitis (ulcerative colitis)

Definition: Inflammation of mucous membranes of large intestine and colon

Causes: May be stress induced, poor eating habits, food allergies, bacteria.

Signs/Symptoms: diarrhea, bleeding, diverticula formation, pain, gas, bloating, hardening of stools

Indications: Massage for stress reduction; vibration over abdomen if allowed

Contraindications: Chronic conditions need direct supervision of physician. Refer to appropriate health care practitioner for diet, lifestyle, stress reduction and supplements.

Colon Cancer

Definition: malignant tumor in colon

Causes: Poor diet lacking in fiber and calcium, polyps, constipation, build up of toxins

Signs/Symptoms: Rectal bleeding, blood in stool, changes in bowel habits

Indications: With permission of client; assist in cleansing.

Contraindications: Work with referral from appropriate health care practitioner.

Refer to Naturopath/Acupuncturist/Chiropractor for support.  Caution if colostomy bag present.

Congestive Heart Failure

Definition: Left side of heart fails to function and pump blood effectively

Signs/Symptoms: fluid accumulates in the lungs, labored breathing after even mild exertion, edema in ankles and feet

Indications: May assist in removing excess fluids

Contraindications: Work with physician supervision; client may not be able to lay supine.


Definition: Inflammation of conjunctiva, the membrane that lines the eyelid and wraps around to cover most of the white of the eye

Causes: bacterial infection, injury, allergies, exposure to irritants, viral (highly contagious)

Signs/Symptoms: eyes swollen and blood shot, itchy and irritated, membrane filled with pus; eyes often stick together after being shut for awhile

Indications:  Chamomile compresses, hot compresses

Contraindications: Avoid affected area; May be highly contagious! Refer to physician


Definition: Infrequent and/or painful elimination of waste through the large bowel

Signs/Symptoms: slow movement of bowels, hard, compacted dry stool, making elimination painful
Causes: Insufficient fiber and fluid intake, inadequate exercise, muscle disorders, bowel diseases, poor diet, iron supplements, drugs, pregnancy, metabolic disturbances

Signs/Symptoms: constipation can lead to appendicitis, bad breath, depression, diverticulitis, fatigue, headaches, indigestion, varicose veins

Indications: Massage over abdomen to stimulate peristalsis: May be related to medication; Recommend extra water intake

Contraindications: Refer to appropriate health care practitioner for nutritional counseling.  If mass or obstruction present, refer immediately to physician.

Reflexology Eases Encopresis and Chronic Constipation


Definition: internal bleeding or hemorrhaging

Causes: trauma to soft tissue or muscles

Signs/Symptoms: bruising, pain; severe may have damage to periosteum of bone which could lead to ossification of muscle tissue

Indications: follow general treatment goals for stage of inflammation, ice compress, drainage in sub-acute stage, reduce muscle guarding and spasm

Contraindications: Refer to Physician if myositis ossificans is present

Contact Dermatitis

Definition: Inflammation of the skin in response to contact with irritant

Causes: allergies to chemicals, perfumes, cosmetics, plants

Signs/Symptoms: scaling, flaking, thickening of skin, itching

Indications: Massage Ok.  Avoid any inflamed areas.  Avoid use of scented oils or lotions

Contraindications: Make sure it is not a contagious irritant such as poison ivy or oak


Definition: Permanent contraction of a muscle or group of muscles.

Causes: Spasm, paralysis, fibrosis, or tissue ischemia, neurological damage, immobilization of area.

Signs/Symptoms: unable to be stretched passively

Indications: Massage to treat fibrosis and ischemia, lengthen muscles: Gentle stretching or PNF stretching.

Contraindications: Do Not stretch past resistance; When due to nerve damage contraindicated.


Definition: Involuntary muscle spasms

Causes: Epilepsy, eclampsia, meningitis, tetanus, poisoning, malnutrition, cervical disease, toxemia, insufficient calcium in diet, food poisoning

Indications: N/A

Contraindications: Refer to physician to determine cause


Definition: Overgrowth of skin usually on hands and feet

Causes: form in response to repeated pressure or contact, bacterial infection, misalignment of foot, improper diet with heavy intake of fats, sugars causing imbalances in acid/alkaline balance

Indications:  look at  posture and realign areas to reduce stress: castor oil  or epsom salt poultices
Contraindications: Avoid any inflamed areas.

Crohn’s Disease

Definition: Inflammation and ulceration of the digestive tract usually chronic and long lasting

Causes: viral, bacteria, stress, food allergies, free radical damage, lack of Vitamin C and/or E

Signs/Symptoms: chronic diarrhea, pain in abdomen, fever, malabsorption, loss of energy, anemia, headaches, vomiting, bowel obstructions

Indications: Massage Ok; stress reduction and detoxification

Contraindications: Work under supervision of Naturopath, Acupuncturist, Physician
There is some evidence that crohn’s may be caused by a pathogen called Mcobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis or MAP found in meat and dairy herds.  Treatment involves high doses of powerful anti-biotics and probiotics to fight the effects of the anti-biotics killing all of the good bacteria in the intestines.

Restoring Your Digestive Health: How the Guts and Glory Program Can Transfom Your Life (Paperback)
by Jordan Rubin, Joseph Brasco

Cystic fibrosis

Definition: genetic disorder of a gene that gives instructions for a protein; affects exocrine glands, pancreas, sweat glands, digestive and respiratory systems

Signs/Symptoms: chronic wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, recurrent lung infections, malnutrition, excessive salt in sweat glands

Indications: Massage Ok; Loosen mucus in lungs with percussion

Contraindications: Work with Physician, Naturopath, Acupuncturist; Caution – May be on steroids


Definition: Inflammation of the bladder

Causes: infection of bacteria, clamydia; Occurs more in women

Signs/Symptoms: urgency of urination, painful burning urination, blood in urine

Indications: N/A

Contraindications: Refer to Naturopath that uses homeopathic remedies and natural treatments such as cranberry, colloidal silver, goldenseal, vitamin C; Refer to appropriate health care provider.


Cysts, Cysts, Cysts! – By Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB



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