The Haven and Spa, Boquete Panama
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Spa & clinic treatments ease suffering in painful chronic conditions

Spa & clinic treatments ease suffering in painful chronic conditions

People with chronic back pain showed significant improvement in general pain, back pain, mood and health after three weeks of varying therapies at a spa resort in Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Austria. “Contribution of Individual Spa Therapies in the Treatment of Chronic Pain” was conducted by Gerhard Strauss-Blasche, Ph.D., Cem Ekmekcioglu, M.D., Gerda Vacariu, M.D., Herbert Melchart, M.D., Veronika Fialka-Moser, M.D., and Wolfgang Marktl, M.D. The study involved 151 subjects with an average age of 58, all of whom had experienced strong back pain for at least one year. Participants spent three weeks at a spa receiving two to four spa treatments per day. The treatments included mud applications, massage, exercise, spinal work and electrotherapy of various descriptions. On average, subjects experienced a total of approximately 37 therapy sessions throughout the three-weeks. 1) General pain, 2) back pain, 3) negative mood and 4) a feeling of well being, were measured on the first and last days of the study; a follow-up measurement was taken six weeks later. At the end of the study and at follow-up, a significant improvement was noted for all four outcomes.

Massage Eases Alcohol Withdrawal – In subjects undergoing alcohol detoxification, massage therapy decreased the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, reduced pulse rate and encouraged greater engagement in the treatment process, according to recent research. “Massage Therapy Improves the Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome” was conducted by staff of Royal Brisbane Hospital Alcohol and Drug Services, Queensland University of Technology School of Psychology and Counseling, and the University of Queensland, Australia. Twenty-five subjects were assigned to the massage group, and 25 were assigned to a control group. All 50 participants had been admitted to an alcohol and drug detoxification unit. Forty-one were males and nine were females, with an average age of 43.8 years. “In conclusion, this study suggests that there may be a place for massage therapy in the alcohol detoxification process.” There might be a possibility that it would help with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Massage for Long-Term Pain – Massage significantly improved self-rated health, mental energy and muscle pain in people with chronic musculo-skeletal pain, according to a recent study. “A Randomized Clinical Trial of the Treatment Effects of Massage Compared to Relaxation Tape Recordings on Diffuse Long-Term Pain” was conducted by staff at the Uppsala University Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, in Uppsala, Sweden. One-hundred-seventeen subjects with long-term, diffuse (spread out) musculo-skeletal pain participated in the study. Each subject had pain that had lasted for at least three months and was not caused by a specific disease or condition. Participants were randomised to either a massage or relaxation group. Subjects in the massage group received anywhere from six to 10 massages. Subjects received the massages one to three times per week. Participants received an average of seven massages. One person administered all massages, and each session was adjusted to meet subjects’ individual pain thresholds. Subjects in the relaxation group listened to a relaxation tape twice a week for five weeks. The tape instructed them to tense and relax the muscle groups and breathe slowly and regularly. Results of the study showed that, during treatment, there was a significant improvement in self-rated health, mental energy and muscle pain for subjects in the massage group as compared to those in the relaxation group.

However, we at the Haven Spa and Health Clinic would also look at the deeper underlining causes of the pain for long term relief of pain.

Soft-tissue Massage for Shoulder Pain – Soft-tissue massage improved range of motion, reduced pain and improved function in people with shoulder pain, according to a research study. “A trial into the effectiveness of soft tissue massage in the treatment of shoulder pain” was conducted by staff at Auburn Hospital and Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Sydney, Australia. Twenty-nine subjects who had been referred to the Concord hospital for management of shoulder pain participated in the study. Their medical diagnoses varied, but impingement, rotator-cuff tear and unspecified shoulder pain were the most common diagnoses. Fourteen of the participants were randomly assigned to the control group, where they were placed on a waiting list for massage and received no treatment for two weeks. Fifteen of the participants were randomly assigned to the massage group, where they received six sessions of soft-tissue massage around the shoulder for two weeks. The massage included the lateral border of the scapula, in full shoulder flexion; posterior deltoid, at end-of-range horizontal flexion; anterior deltoid, at end-of-range hand-behind-back; and pectoralis major, in the stretch position. Each session lasted 15-20 minutes. Active range of motion was evaluated for flexion, abduction and hand-behind-back movements before and after the study. Pain was assessed on the Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire, and functional ability was assessed with the Patient Specific Functional Disability Measure, both before and after the study period. Subjects in the control group showed no significant improvements from the beginning to the end of the two-week period. Subjects in the massage group showed significant improvements in all measures, with a mean improvement of 22.6 degrees in flexion; 42.2 degrees in abduction; and the ability to reach a mean of 11 centimeters further up the back. Subjects in the massage group also reported decreased pain and improved function.

Here at the Haven Spa and health Clinic, we would use additional therapies to bring about even greater changes.

Massage Reduces Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease – Massage improved daily functioning, increased quality of sleep and decreased stress-hormone levels in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study. “Parkinson’s disease symptoms are reduced by massage therapy and progressive muscle exercises,” was conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. Sixteen adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic disease of the central nervous system characterized by tremor, muscle weakness and rigidity, were randomly assigned to receive either massage therapy or progressive muscle relaxation, twice a week for five weeks. On the first and last days of the study, urine samples were collected; participants completed self-reports on daily functioning, sleep and fatigue; and physicians evaluated the participants. According to the physicians and the subjects’ self-reports daily functioning improved for those in the massage-therapy group. “These data are consistent with previous research showing improvement on activities of daily living following massage therapy, for example, for patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal-cord injuries,” state the study’s authors. “Together these findings suggest that massage therapy enhances functioning in progressive or degenerative central nervous system disorders or conditions.” The urine samples revealed a decrease in the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine for the massage-therapy group.

Massage Improves Sleep, Decreases Pain and Substance P in Fibromyalgia Patients – After receiving massage twice weekly for five weeks, fibromyalgia patients experienced improved mood and sleep, and their levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter in the pain fiber system, decreased, along with the number of tender spots throughout their bodies, according to recent research. The study, “Fibromyalgia Pain and Substance P Decrease and Sleep Improves After Massage Therapy,” was conducted by Tiffany Field, Ph.D., Miguel Diego, Christy Cullen, Maria Hernandez-Reif, Ph.D., William Sunshine and Steven Douglas of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia is defined as “widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain of unknown cause and multiple tender points.” Levels of substance P are significantly higher in people with fibromyalgia. Twenty-four adults with this condition were randomly assigned to either a massage-therapy or relaxation group. Participants in the relaxation-therapy group met for a half-hour twice weekly for five weeks and were given instructions on progressive muscle relaxation while lying quietly on the massage table. Both the massage and the relaxation group showed a decrease in anxiety and depressed mood immediately after sessions on the first and last days of this study. More long-term effects were also evaluated. The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale was used to measure depressive symptoms. Subjects wore a motion recorder at night to record activity during sleep and kept a log of the time they went to bed and awoke. A physician assessed participants’ illness, medication use, tender points and pain; and saliva samples were taken before the first and last sessions to measure levels of substance P. The results revealed that, over the course of the study, the massage group, as compared with the relaxation group, experienced decreased depression; improved sleep; decreased pain, fatigue and stiffness; improved physician assessments; decreased tender points; and a reduced level of substance P.

Osteoarthritis – ‘Clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness evidence of SPA therapy in osteoarthritis” was conducted by staff at the Institute of Rheumatology at the University of Siena, in Siena, Italy. The study focused on the role of spa therapy in easing osteoarthritis. The project observed thousands of people with osteoarthritis over the course of two years. Treatments like wraps where used. Outcome variables measured were pain, functional ability, use of symptomatic drugs, number of hospitalisations and missed days of work due to osteoarthritis, and the use of physical or alternative therapy during the year. Results showed significant improvements for all the outcome variables.


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