Developed in the United States in the 1980's by Sharon Weiselfish Giammatteo, PT, PhD, Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) is a type of gentle soft tissue manipulation that is aimed not at fixing any specific health problem, but at helping the body reach a balance with improved mobility / movement, circulation, sensory function and immune responsiveness. IMT has been used by people in the United States as well as around the world over the last 30 years.
This hands-on therapy is often performed by the same practitioners who offer other holistic forms of complementary therapies including massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, occupational therapy, energy field healing, matrix energetics, homeopathics, and a variety of other holistically-oriented remedies.
How Does Integrative Manual Therapy Work?
Those trained in IMT use their hands in a gentle way on your body as you lay clothed on a massage table. The aim of the touch is to elicit a change in joint mobility and function through gentle mobilization techniques and a nervous system response through addressing reflex points (similar to acupuncture called synchronizers, hypothalamus regulation mechanisms, and reference points). IMT practitioners also palpate various rhythms in the body such as the heartbeat, craniosacral rhythms, muscle rhythms and more. Addressing these rhythms or motilities, is like a very gentle form of CPR, where the practitioner uses a very specific pressure in a very specific location to balance a rhythm in the body. Most therapy sessions last a total of 60 minutes and several sessions will be most likely be recommended depending on your goals.
Proponents of the technique believe that, after the therapy, the mobility of the joints and flow of circulation, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluid will be corrected and that connections between the nervous system and immune, digestive, and musculoskeletal systems will be improved, prompting a feeling of relaxation and increased energy. However, more scientific studies must be done to verify these statements.
Integrative Manual Therapy for Cancer Patients
Integrative Manual Therapy does not propose to offer a cure for cancer or even to help slow the progression of disease like mesothelioma or change its molecular structure. Instead, it is offered most often as a complementary therapy for use by those who are undergoing traditional cancer treatments, such as radiation or mesothelioma chemotherapy, and who wish to find a natural way to counteract some of the symptoms of the disease or side effects of these treatments.
Indeed, researchers have studied Integrative Manual Therapy as a treatment for pain, lymph congestion, and muscle dysfunction caused by cancer and cancer treatments. It has also been tested as a potential treatment for the relief of stress and anxiety, often an ongoing problem for cancer patients as well. Though there is a lack of steadfast scientific evidence supporting the claims that Integrative Manual Therapy helps ease both pain and anxiety, patients who have tried IMT note a sense of relaxation after a session with fewer symptoms and an overall feeling of well-being in the long run.
Is it Safe?
Integrative Manual Therapy involves a very gentle manipulation of the skin, muscles, and joints and is totally non-invasive. Therefore, it is often safer for cancer patients than other treatments that are more vigorous. Nevertheless, cancer patients should always take the time to talk to their practitioners about their conditions and any areas of concern on the body where injury might occur. If the therapy causes pain, it should be stopped immediately.
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Giammatteo, S. W., T. Giammatteo, K. Burnham. (2009). "Integrative Manual Therapy improves women's health, range of motion and pregnancy." Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients April 2009.
Havens, R. (2007). "Headaches and Craniosacral Therapy." 14-02: [Full Text]
Havens, R (2007). "An Integrative Manual Therapy Perspective on Low Back Pain." Health and Recovery Vol 03. [Full Text]