Pathology M for Massage Therapists

Macular Degeneration

Definition: degeneration of the macula (part of retina that is for fine vision); progressive visual loss

Causes: free radical damage, atherosclerosis, hypertension, hereditary, environmental toxins

Signs/Symptoms: loss of vision; slowly or suddenly, does not affect color or peripheral vision.

Indications: Massage for detoxification, stress reduction

Contraindications: Refer to appropriate health care practitioner for treatment; detoxification, lifestyle and diet changes needed; bilberry extract.

Meniere’s Disease

Definition: inner ear disturbance

Causes: cervical misalignment, hormonal changes or imbalances, poor circulation, TMJ, allergies, carbohydrate metabolism problem

Signs/Symptoms: dizziness, hearing loss, loss of balance, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ear

Indications: With referral from physician, after ruling out brain dysfunction or tumors; realign C1, craniosacral work, TMJ realignment, stress reduction

Contraindications: Refer to appropriate health care practitioner.


Definition: infection of the meninges that lies between the brain and the skull

Causes: viral, bacterial

Signs/Symptoms: high fever, sore throat, red or purple skin, stiff neck, headache, delirium, changes in temperament and extreme sleepiness

Indications: N/A

Contraindications: Highly contagious! Refer to Physician

Menopause Related Problems

Definition: “Change of Life” for women in which ovulation stops and menstruation ceases indicating the end of fertility.

Causes: hormonal changes, production of estrogen and progesterone decreases significantly; problems caused by improper diet, inactive lifestyles throughout life and hereditary

Signs/Symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, anxiety, depression, bladder problems, heart palpitations, insomnia

Indications: Massage for stress reduction, detoxification, self awareness, relaxation of tension

Contraindications:  Refer to appropriate health care practitioner.  Most symptoms can be reduced or eliminated without hormone supplementation if lifestyles are adjusted in the early 30’s. Hormone supplements need further research.


When I first started in massage in 1987, the golden rule was never massage anyone with cancer. Times have changed and the golden rule no longer holds true.  Working with cancer patients can be the most rewarding, soul searching, emotional experience and  you may have as a practitioner.
Here are some guidelines to support you along the way.

  1. Research as much as you can about the type of cancer your patient has.  Find out what is involved in their treatments.  Talk with the patient.  Talk with the patients doctors.  Become informed.
  2. If they are going through chemotherapy or radiation, research the drugs that are being used.  Their bodies are going to be destroyed by the drugs.  They may experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, skin changes, and an extreme fluctuation in emotions.  Fear will be with them through out the process.
  3. The best thing you can do for your client is be there and not interfere in their process or be judgmental.  Stand back and look at what they are going through and decide how can you best support their process.  If you step in and start suggesting alternative therapies they might be overwhelmed.  If they want something different or more information they will ask.  Just offer them the best massage session you can.  Listen to them.  Listen to their pain.  Listen to their fear.  Listening may be the best healer.
  4. Be in constant contact with the client at all times.  What may have previously felt fine to them, may not now.  Ask them what they want – more pressure, less pressure or just a certain body part.  They may not want some areas touched.  Their skin may be more sensitive when going through chemotherapy or radiation.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome: A New Way of Thinking About Long-Term Risk by Ruth Werner

MRSA: Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus: A Moving Target – By Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB


Definition: vascular headache

Causes: excessive dilation or constriction of the brain’s blood vessels; hormonal changes, stress, improper diet, food allergies, constipation, liver malfunction, emotional stress, bright lights, low blood sugar, dental problems, TMJ, changes in weather, triggerpoints in neck, shoulders and back

Signs/Symptoms: throbbing pain, vision disturbances, nausea, vommiting, tingling and numbness in the limbs, weakness, may want to be in a dark room

Indications: Massage for stress reduction and detoxification; release triggerpoints in neck, shoulders and upper back, craniosacral, postural alignment, ice/heat; if caught early enough before becoming full attack, migraine may be eliminated or reduced.

Contraindications: If in acute stage, client may not want to be touched. May need dark room for treatment.


Definition: pigmented, fleshy growth of skin

Signs/Symptoms: watch for changes in color, size

Indications: Massage ok

Contraindications: Refer to Physician when changes occur


Definition: infectious viral disease

Causes: virus; Epstein Barr related virus

Signs/Symptoms: fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in neck, bumpy red rash, can damage liver

Indications: N/A

Contraindications: Highly contagious; Refer to Physician

Multiple Sclerosis

Definition: progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system; “multiple scarring”

Causes: autoimmune, stress, malnutrition, chemical poisonings, mercury poisoning

Signs/Symptoms: dizziness, mood changes, eye problems, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, muscular stiffness, fatigue, weakness, breathing difficulties; myelin sheaths that cover nerves are destroyed; periods of remission, urinary problems such as incontinence and frequency of urination

Indications: Massage for stress reduction and detoxification, maintain mobility, reduce pain.

Contraindications: No heat treatments. May be on high doses of steroid drugs. Refer to appropriate health care practitioner for treatment. Holistic Dentist to remove mercury fillings. Bee Venom Therapy.

Working with Multiple Sclerosis Patients by Ruth Werner

Multiple Sclerosis The Trager Approach by Deane Juhan

Reflexology Relieves Symptoms of MS

The Cure for Multiple Sclerosis? – Response of Peripheral and Central Nerve Pathology to Mega – Doses of the Vitamin B-Complex and Other Metabolites – by Frederich R. Klenner, BS, MS, MD
The protocol of how to effectively treat Multiple Sclerosis, by Frederich R. Klenner. (In two parts, as originally published in 1973.)

Human Herpesvirus 6: An Emerging Pathogen Gabriella Campadelli-Fiume, Prisco Mirandola, and Laura Menotti – University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy Could MS caused by HHV6?

Multiple Sclerosis Massage Bibliography Journal Club By Ted Nissen M.A. M.T.

The effectiveness of Massage therapy on patients with MS – by Mike Dixon
Alternative Therapies and Multiple Sclerosis Searching for Comfort By Shirley Vanderbilt

Yoga Eases MS Fatigue News Note By Lara Evans Bracciante

Vitamin D Connected to Lower MS Risk News Note By Lara Evans Bracciante

Muscle Soreness – Massage is Great for muscle soreness from over activity or working out, but there is some controversy over why it works.

Lactating Mythers (Massage and the Lactic Acid Myth) by Keith Eric Grant

Massage Decreases Intensity of Delayed Soreness by Pub Med

The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness.

Muscular Dystrophy

Definition: a group of muscle disorders

Causes: hereditary

Signs/Symptoms: atrophy of muscles; no nerve involvement

Indications: Massage to reduce tension, stress reduction

Contraindications: Refer to appropriate health care practitioner.

Myasthenia Gravis

Definition: weakness of the skeletal muscles

Causes: autoimmune disorder;  abnormality in the neuromuscular junction that prevents the muscle from contracting

Signs/Symptoms: affects the muscles of the face and neck most often, may have trouble with eyes, swallowing, chewing and talking

Indications: Massage for stress reduction

Contraindications: May be on steroids or immune suppressants. Refer to appropriate health care practitioner. Have thyroid checked.

Resources: – general overview of massage indications
The Doorway to Muscle Contraction Pathology Perspectives By Kalyani Premkumar.  Massage and Bodywork Magazine
The Essential Massage Companion – Google Book Excerpt

Mosbys Pathology for Massage Therapists – Google Book Excerpt

Digital Naturopath for Myasthenia Gravis recommends raw food diet, gluten free diet,

Myofascial Pain Syndrome (myofibrositis)

Definition: pain and or autonomic phenomena referred from active trigger points with associated dysfunction

Causes: trauma, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, overwork, stress

Signs/Symptoms: headaches, trigeminal neuralgia, pain, tenderness with palpation, referred pain, hypertonic muscles, decreased circulation to the area of tenderness

Indications: Massage to relieve pain, trigger point therapy, break up adhesions and hypertonic muscles

Contraindications: none; refer to appropriate health care practitioner.


Definition: nearsightedness; light comes to focus in front of the retina

Causes: eyestrain, fatigue

Signs/Symptoms: teary eyes, fatigued eyes

Indications: Massage for stress reduction

Contraindications: Refer to Bates Vision eye specialist for eye exercises.

Myositis Ossificans

Definition: inflammation of muscle cells leading to ossification ( turns to bone)

Causes: trauma, bruising, contusions, parasites, congenital, hereditary, progressive degenerative disease

Signs/Symptoms: pain, swelling, tenderness

Indications: None

Contraindications: Refer to Physician


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