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July 30, 2008

The Endocrine System

I'm studying for my final exam in pathology. In this unit we covered the endocrine system with an emphasis on the impact of dysfunction in relation to physical therapy. Oftentimes, I find that there is an overlap between indications and precautions for both massage and physical therapy. In the case of the endocrine system, dysfunction usually shows up in people who may be too debilitated make it to your office.

Usually a massage therapist need not recognize the signs and symptoms of endocrine dysfunction outside of a hospital setting. Clients arriving at your office with these disorders are hopefully under a doctor's care and have the condition stabilized. So issues about not giving water to a client with syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion will probably not come up in your practice.

However, that said, one of the most common conditions a therapist might encounter is a client, say a woman in her 50, who is exhibiting symptoms of fatigue, elevated blood lipid levels, weight gain, muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, joint pain with stiffness or swelling, and depression. They may attribute their symptoms to menopause, the onset of arthritis, empty nest syndrome or a host of other age-related decline. Multiple symptoms of this order may be an opportunity for you to encourage your client to see their doctor, as these are common symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.

Also, while cruising the internet for information about massage therapy and the endocrine system, I happened upon a nice article by Tim Noonan about the role that massage therapy plays with the endocrine system for balancing the autonomic nervous system. More than enough studies have talked about the role of cortisol as a major stress hormone. Noonan states that using massage to mobilize cortisol and other stress hormones from the blood and tissues to the liver for processing may be one of the many underlying mechanisms for stress reduction.

I cannot finish talking about the endocrine system without addressing the use of steroid-type medications prescribed for a myriad of "difficult to treat" problems. Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., of the Institute for Integrative Health Care Studies states that it is crucial that a massage therapist must be aware of the implications of their clients on steroids.

For clients taking prednisone, a gentle approach is often required. Prednisone can create a disturbance in fluid balance, resulting in abnormal swelling. Gentle work will minimize any dramatic fluid changes.

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Posted by linda at July 30, 2008 7:20 PM

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