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Relieving Stress with Massage Therapy

Graduating from high school and beginning a post-secondary education is an important and exciting time in a young person’s life. College can be a lot of fun, but it also is a hectic experience.

Students are under pressure to succeed in their studies and form new relationships. They also face the challenge of living on their own, perhaps for the first time. This involves buying groceries, washing clothes, and performing other tasks that used to be done for them. The stress that can result must be managed to avoid physical and psychological problems. Eating nutritious food and exercising are key to keeping the body working properly and maintaining mental health.

Another way to find relief when pressures mount is to get a massage. This kind of hands-on therapy is an ancient method of relieving muscle tension, reducing pain, and promoting physical rehabilitation. The word “massage” comes from a French term for the “friction of kneading.” Numerous techniques have been developed for muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Massage also is used to relieve symptoms in the vessels of the lymphatic and gastrointestinal systems.

People receiving massages typically lie on a table or sit in a chair, though beds and floor mats are sometimes used. Practitioners employ their hands, elbows, forearms, knees, and feet to apply pressure to targeted parts of the body. They improve their clients’ mobility and help them regain other physical functions.

People of all ages benefit from these treatments. They include those recovering from injuries and patients undergoing post-operative care. Others who have found massage worthwhile are people with cancer, heart disease, psychological afflictions, and disorders of the immune-response and endocrine systems.

Massage is frequently incorporated in conditioning regimens for athletes and others whose activities can result in strained muscles and injuries. Treatments can be useful for people who strain their shoulders and necks while working on computers, and those with physical problems resulting from repetitive motion.

Basic Massage
The most common type of this therapy is Swedish massage. It involves the use of the hands to work on various parts of the body to relax muscles and loosen joints. This can be as simple as rubbing a sore muscle, which a person may be able to self-administer. However, professionals are trained to target the source of discomfort and apply the most effective techniques.

There main kinds of Swedish massage are effleurage, featuring stroking movements on the affected area; petrissage, the grabbing and pulling of muscles; friction, the use of fingers in a circular motion to apply pressure; tapotement, involving chopping and tapping; and vibrasion, in which fingers are firmly pressed on muscles while the client’s body is shaken.

Deep-Tissue Work
While Swedish massage is most effective in relaxing the outer two layers of muscles, a more intensive method called deep-tissue massage is needed to provide relief in muscles that lie deeper in the body. This is often required by those whose pain results from athletics or other heavy physical activity.

Deep-tissue massage involves slowly stroking across the grain of the muscles. Elbows, as well as hands, are sometimes used to apply the necessary pressure. Therapists trained in this type of massage know how to locate individual muscles from which a person’s pain or tightness originates.

The goal is to zero in on “trigger points,” knots that radiate pain to other parts of the body. This neuromuscular technique improves blood flow, while relieving discomfort by decreasing pressure on the nerves.

Acupressure
Acupuncture, the therapeutic application of needles in the skin, has used by healers in China for thousands of years. Acupressure involves the same trigger points, which practitioners identify as the source of patients’ pain or stiffness. Hands, elbows, and tools like balls and rollers are used to apply pressure.

In addition to relieving pain, acupressure can lessen the nausea experienced by post-operative patients. It is widely believed that acupressure and acupuncture re-balance a person’s chi, a term relating to the flow of energy throughout the body.

Reiki
Another hands-on healing technique, reiki, is based on a similar idea. The term is translated as “universal life energy.” In this ancient Japanese ritual, energy is said to pass through the hands of the therapist to the patient.

While generally provided in private practices and clinics, reiki also has been used in hospitals to help surgical patients and those receiving radiation treatments. It is a deeply spiritual, as well as physical, exercise.

Rolfing
A rolfer works on myofascia, connective tissues that surround muscles. In many cases, myofascia are the source of back pain and joint aches. Patients typically develop such maladies as a result of bad posture or repetitive movements.

Rolfing is an intense therapy, which can be painful because of the amount of pressure applied with hands and elbows. People seek out rolfers when other, less extreme, massage techniques have failed to provide relief.

Patients undergoing hellerwork receive rolfing massage, as well as an education in improving their postures to reduce the damage to joints and muscles. The straightening, stretching, and massaging featured in hellerwork sometimes results in patients “growing” as much as an inch in height.

The multiple forms of massage range from gentle stroking to painful pressure. These therapies can be emotional, as well as physical, experiences. Patients have been known to weep upon getting a measure of relief from their pain. This is considered normal, and experts advise not resisting the impulse to cry.

The technique that works best for one person may be different than that needed by another. It is important to find a practitioner who can provide the most effective method of massage for an individual complaint.

Students who get an occasional massage may find that they feel more relaxed, mentally and physically. Many have found that these healing techniques make it easier to deal with the stress of the college experience.

10 Health Careers That Don't Require a Medical Degree

The booming health-care industry is expected to continue growing at a rate far exceeding that of most other fields in the coming decade. A growing population, especially the rising number of seniors, is creating additional demand for the services of many kinds of medical providers.

Students interested in a career in health care may find the educational requirements daunting. Surgeons and other doctors, as well as some other medical professionals, must complete four years of undergraduate studies, resulting in a bachelor’s degree in a life science; four years of medical school; and several more years of internships and residencies. The academic challenges posed by this lengthy process, not to mention the high cost of graduate study, are prohibitive for many students.

Fortunately, there are health-care occupations that do not entail such an intense commitment. To get some of these jobs, all that is needed is a certificate. For others, a two-year associate’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree is sufficient. High school students planning to enter medical careers are advised to take science and math classes like biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra.

Here is a look at just 10 of the numerous health careers that do not require medical degrees.

Cardiovascular Technologists
These professionals perform diagnostic tests to detect illnesses, diseases, and disorders of the heart, blood vesssels, and lungs. Procedures in which they are trained include ultrasound, pulmonary-function and lung-capacity tests, electrocardiograms, cardiac catheterizations, and balloon angioplasties. Cardiovascular technologists help doctors analyze test results and determine the necessary treatments.

To get this job, an associate’s degree is a typical requirement. Many students obtain bachelor’s degrees to enhance their employment opportunities.

Clinical Laboratory Technologists
This type of technologist is a scientist who conducts and analyzes diagnostic tests of bodily fluids and tissues. The tests reveal the cause of patients’ diseases and disorders, and aid doctors in making diagnoses. Clinical laboratory technologists work exclusively in labs, without contact with patients.

A bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science, allied health technologies, or a related field is generally needed. Master’s degree programs are necessary only for those seeking lab-management positions.

Medical Laboratory Technicians
These professionals rank just below clinical laboratory technologists. They assist in conducting diagnostic tests of patients’ samples. This involves the use of computers, microscopes, and other sophisticated medical equipment.

Most employers require technicians to have associate’s degrees in clinical laboratory science. Those with degrees in related fields, such as nursing, may become lab technicians by completing one-year programs in general laboratory knowledge. Some employers hire technicians who have earned certificates, rather than degrees, from hospitals or vocational schools.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
This technologist uses ultrasound equipment to create images of patients’ organs and other internal parts to detect diseases, illnesses, infections, and disorders. Sonography is a particulary fast-growing field, as the procedure is less intrusive than x-rays and increasingly preferred by patients.

To work in this occupation, a two-year allied-health degree and completion of a one-year ultrasound-technology program are required. Two-year associate’s degree programs in sonography also are available. Professionals with other medical degrees may qualify as ultrasound specialists by completing one-year certificate programs.

Health Care Social Workers
This position involves assisting people in dealing with diseases, illnesses, and disabilities. Health-care social workers educate patients about their conditions, teach coping methods, provide mental-health counseling, and refer patients to medical specialists. The families also receive counseling, while the patient is hospitalized and after returning home.

To get an entry-level job, a two-year bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or sociology is often required. Some employers call for master’s degrees in social work, which takes an additional two to four years, followed by residency training. Some universities offer doctorate degrees. These social workers must complete a training program featuring hundreds of hours of field work.

Health Information Technicians
Managing patients’ records and other data in a medical facility is the main responsibility of this professional. Paper and computer files pertaining to financial information, treatments, diagnoses, medications, and exam results must be accurate and up-to-date. Technicians work with insurance companies and other third-party payers, and code medical information for security and billing purposes.

There are several ways to become a registered health information technician (RHIT). Students may take a six-month certificate program in medical technology, or a two-year associate’s degree program in health information management. Four-year bachelor’s degrees in health information technology also are offered by accredited colleges and universities.

Licensed Vocational Nurses
Supervised by registered nurses and doctors, LVNs provide direct health-care services to patients. They monitor vital signs like pulse, blood pressure, respiration rate, and body temperature; collect blood and tissue samples for diagnostic testing; dress wounds and replace bandages; treat bedsores and administer enemas; and help patients stand, walk, eat, bathe, and change clothes.

One-year certificate programs, at community colleges and technical schools (and some hospitals), provide the necessary education to get this job. The programs provide on-the-job training, as well as classwork. Many LVNs obtain two-year associate’s degrees.

Physical Therapy Aides
This job is an entry-level health-care position. PTAs support, move, and lift patients. They educate and train people in rehabilitation methods, help them use orthopedic devices, and provide therapeutic treatments. Aides also have clerical and janitorial responsibilities in the rehab clinics, therapists’ offices, and nursing homes where most of them they are employed.

In many cases, the only educational requirement is a high school diploma or general-equivalency degree. The chances of getting a good job may be improved by taking classes in physical therapy and fitness. Community colleges and technical schools offer certificate programs for aides. Online certificate courses also are available.

Radiology Technicians
Also called x-ray techs, these people obtain x-ray images of patients’ organs and other body parts. Doctors interpret the images to determine the cause and extent of illnesses, diseases, disorders, and injuries. Technicians explain diagnostic procedures and position patients on examining tables.

Successful completion of a certificate program in radiology technology qualifies a student for this position. Such programs are offered by colleges, universities, community colleges, technical schools, and hospitals. Online study is another option. Associate’s degrees at community colleges give students additional credentials, as do bachelor’s degree programs in radiologic technology at larger institutions.

Respiratory Therapists
These professionals work under the supervision of doctors to treat patients who have breathing problems and cardiopulmonary ailments. They order diagnostic tests, then provide therapy to relieve patients’ symptoms and restore their functions.

To practice respiratory therapy, the minimum education requirement is an associate’s degree. To work at a hospital or in emergency medical services, a bachelor’s degree may be necessary.

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