Category Archives: Meditation

Massage in the Hospital Setting

Blue Cliff College asked me to come talk to their massage students about Thai Massage a couple of weeks ago, and one of the students there asked me about doing massage at the bedside in nursing.  My gut reaction, which I find myself embarrassed by, was not just no, but hell no.

Thai Massage, stretching, yoga
What a Thai Massage Talk/Demo Looks like

And it’s not that I don’t do some bedside nursing massage.  I do.  I had an elderly gentleman patient approaching 100 years old who was comfortable with dying, but his family was still holding on.  They wanted him to remain a full code, which is a full conversation on its own.

I imagine that when most people are asked the question, “Do you want us to use life saving measures on your mom/dad if they are dying?” They are horrified by the implications.  My gut reaction is, “Well of course I do.  Wouldn’t you?”

But to those of us who work in life saving measures, we have a whole other set of associated images that comes to mind: ribs breaking, blood, sputum, puke.  CPR is violent.  So when a frail elderly patient closing in on 100 years old is comfortable with leaving the planet, and the kids are holding on to that Full Code status, the nursing staff might be praying to not have to break that poor sweet man to bring him back to life when he could be headed toward that most coveted –fall asleep and not wake back up– kind of passing.

Sometimes the decision is not that clear.  But often, we humans have a very difficult time letting go.

All of that is to say that when this particular patient had foot pain–I massaged his feet.  And he loved every minute of it.  No, we did not have to perform CPR on him.  But I was afraid, the whole time he was in the hospital, that we would. These are the times when Palliative care is needed and is an amazing form of nursing.

Blue Cliff College Thai Massage Talk and Demo

I have helped anxious patients learn how to meditate.  I have walked them through meditations. I have also helped them download meditation apps.

But most of our patients on the floor are not in a good mental space for massage.  We treat an alarming number of detoxing alcoholics who are not at the hospital because they chose to be.  The same with detoxing methamphetamine addicts.  I have found that it is simply not the right combination of circumstances for massage therapy.

As a massage therapist, people come to me because they are actively making a choice to feel better, to take care of themselves.  They value their health.  I help them manage their pain. They are taking responsibility for their health.

As a medical surgical nurse, people come to the hospital to be fixed.  Most of them don’t want to be there, and many are forced to be there either because of self inflicted circumstances, or because the people around them have had enough and can not manage their health or addiction problems any more.

In my intellectual mind I rationalize that yes, we need touch in the hospital, and I do bring that element in–but not often.  Part of it is because I hardly have time to pee or take a break during the day, and massage or Reiki is a contemplative, slow process.  Part of it is the patient population.  I have patients who are perfectly capable of cleaning their own genitalia who will tell me they need me to do that for them.  It’s just not the same as somebody coming to a massage studio fully aware of the sacred space that we create in the massage room.

Maybe it would be different if we had a dedicated space and set of procedures for bodywork.  But as a bedside nurse in a mostly elderly male population I have not found it easy or intuitive to incorporate massage into hospital treatment.

I used to play with business models for in hospital massage services.  Massage in the hospital would be good for the staff, the family of patients, as well as the patients.  But in my bedside nursing I haven’t found a way to incorporate it on a regular basis.

But it did give me pause when I found myself ashamed to admit to students that I did not use massage in my day to day nursing.  I’ll have to cogitate on it.

Wendy Finn is the mother of 4 boys, former owner of I.M. Spa, registered nurse at a local hospital, Raw Food Enthusiast and educator, runner, world traveler in pursuit of superior massage education, a Master Massage Therapist of 25 plus years, a massage therapy educator, and a gardener.  She’s passionate about touching people and sharing health.  

To Schedule an Appointment for a Massage go to: Integrated Massage and click the “Book Now” button. For information about upcoming continuing education for massage therapists email Wendy at imspa@hotmail.com

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Meditation for Anxiety

I teach a dance class with my friend Nicole on Fridays at 7:45a.m. at Be One Yoga Studio.  We were talking at class last week and we both have kids who experience Vasovagal Syncope.  If they go to get a shot or see blood they faint, pass out, vagal down–whatever you want to call it.  It’s embarrassing, inconvenient, and scary to them.

It is not uncommon.  A couple of years ago I was teaching a classroom full of College of Education students about tourniquets–because these days as a teacher it is a distinct possibility that they will be faced with having to stop a child from bleeding out as a result of a gunshot wound–and one of the young women in the class started to faint and had to be helped to the floor.  Just the thought of tourniquets, without even images of blood or graphic pictures, was enough to trigger vasovagal syncope for her.

My son, Sean, was given atropine when they put an IV in him prior to his surgery for wisdom teeth because his heart rate dropped so low.  He had to stay an extra hour after the surgery because his heart rate was staying in the 30s and 40s.

My son, Zach, literally turned green when he was getting stitches once.  He starts to faint and has to sit down when there are needles around.

What happens is that there is an adrenaline surge, for our kids it is a result of a fear (fear of needles, blood, etc.), followed by a vagus nerve response that dilates the veins, dropping the heart rate.

Nicole and I were talking about things the kids could do to try to prevent the reaction since they will have to see needles, give blood, get immunizations, and receive medical treatment for the rest of their lives.

These are the things that have worked for us:

  • Stay horizontal. One of the factors of hypotension is that the body has to work against gravity to get the blood back to the heart.  Keeping the body horizontal can reduce that pull.  Also, it can prevent head injuries during the fainting episode.
  • Benzodiazepines.  Okay, so most people probably don’t have a bunch of bennies lying around, but if you have a prescription for these for anxiety, this is a good time to take it–before you go.  Now, obviously, this can not be mistaken as medical advice.  Ask your doctor if you need medication to help deal with this problem.  Talk to your doctor if you have this problem at all.  Medication can reduce the stress factor of the adrenergic response.
  • Systematic desensitization therapy.  This can be led by a therapist, but you can also willingly expose yourself to the thing you are afraid of incrementally increasing exposure until the anxiety producing event is no longer problematic.

Things that I think might work for us:

  • Meditation.  I have used meditation for other similar physiological responses to anxiety producing situations with great results, especially when paired with the next suggestion.  Now, my kids have not yet tried this for their fear of needles, so I’m just pulling it in as a possibility.
  • Self-hypnosis.  Again, I have used this for smoking cessation and public speaking, and it seems reasonable to assume that you could program your brain not to respond to stimuli in the same way to prevent the physiological problem.
  • Applied Tension Technique.  This as a way to organically and systematically increase your blood pressure so that when it drops it doesn’t drop so low.
  • Relaxation and distraction techniques are techniques I use every day with patients who don’t have needle phobias.  I often ask patients to wiggle their toes, or talk to them about their lives to distract them from the horrible things I’m doing to them–whether I’m placing an IV, giving them a shot, or dressing their wounds.

Nicole had this list of resources that she likes:

Years ago my friends Gina and Zara introduced me to Silva Method meditation.  I love it because it gives people a method.  Often my clients want to meditate but they feel stupid or that they are not doing it ‘right.’  The Silva Method helps provide a structure that can get you comfortable with the process.

And it seems, in my awareness, that a lot of people are drawn to Transcendental Meditation.  I have not experienced the training for this yet, but it is intriguing.

One that I recommend to patients at the hospital often is HeadSpace because it is free and it starts with guided meditation and gradually increases the time and decreases the verbal.

Obviously we need to get our kids to try all the options because we haven’t had the opportunity to try much (see the above list of ‘things that have worked’).  Fortunately there are tons of resources on the interwebs, and hopefully they will be open to being proactive with the process.

If you want to take part in my ‘post dance class talks with Nicole’ you’ll just have to come dance with us at Be One Yoga on Friday mornings!

Email Wendy at imspa@hotmail.com to request a massage appointment.

Wendy Finn is the mother of 4 boys, former owner of I.M. Spa, registered nurse, Raw Food Enthusiast and educator, runner, world traveler in pursuit of superior massage education, Master Massage Therapist, massage therapy educator, and gardener.  She’s passionate about touching people and sharing health.

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