Pathology for Massage Therapists

Pathology for Massage Therapy – Common Conditions You Should Know

A thorough understanding of common pathologies is essential for all practicing massage therapists. This is true whether you plan on offering massage therapy services at a healthcare or wellness practice, a day spa, a fitness center, at your own private practice, or even corporate chair massage. Regardless of who your clientele is, some percentage of your clients will have a health condition that needs to be considered before forming a treatment plan and providing therapy services. Therefore, massage & bodywork practitioners must have a good working knowledge of pathology to be able to provide safe and effective treatments.

What is pathology? Pathology is the study of the causes of diseases and their effects on the human body. This includes diseases caused by pathogens, as well as genetic, degenerative, cancerous, and other origins. Pathology is also defined as a branch of medicine that examines tissues, organs, fluids, and systems of the body to identify abnormalities in structure or function. The information discovered by pathologists is important for finding the causes of diseases and effective treatment strategies.

This article provides a brief overview of 135 common pathologies that massage therapists should be familiar with for the MBLEx as well as for clinical practice. The pathology profiles below focus on the basic definitions, structures involved, common causes & treatments, and big-picture concepts for each pathology.

Learning pathology for massage therapy and the MBLEx

Pathology, as defined above, is the study of causes and effects of disease. The term “pathology” or “pathologies” may also be used interchangeably with the terms condition, disease, dysfunction, disorder or syndrome. For example, pathologies of the hip, pathologies of the cardiovascular system, or endocrine pathologies.

The field of pathology encompasses a wide range of medical specialties including anatomical pathology, clinical pathology, molecular pathology, forensic pathology, and neuropathology. Anatomical pathologists, for example, examine tissue samples obtained during surgery or biopsy to diagnose cancer or other diseases affecting organs or tissues. Clinical pathologists analyze blood and other bodily fluids to determine the cause of illness and monitor treatment progress.

The easiest way for massage therapists to learn pathology is first build a solid foundation of knowledge in anatomy (structures) and physiology (functions). Once you understand the anatomy and physiology of a normal and healthy body, then it is easier to understand how abnormal conditions effect the body. In addition, for many abnormal conditions such as pathologies of the musculoskeletal system, your knowledge of how the body moves (kinesiology) will also help you understand the effects of specific pathologies.

Here are a few reasons why learning pathology is important for massage therapists:

  • To better understand a client’s health history or current conditions
  • To know when and how a massage treatment plan should be modified
  • To be able to recognize when a client might need to be referred to a physician
  • To identify precautions or contraindications to massage therapy
  • To pass the MBLEx (the pathology content area is 14% of the FSMTB massage licensing exam)
  • To pass the national massage board certification exam offered by the NCBTMB

*Remember that it is not within the massage therapy scope of practice to diagnose a medical condition.

Massage therapists and students need to be familiar with common pathology terminology as well. This will ensure accurate communication with clients and other healthcare professionals. It will also improve accuracy with massage documentation on assessment forms or SOAP notes. It is helpful to know the definitions for terms such as etiology, diagnosis, disease, condition, disorder, syndrome, pathogen, benign, signs & symptoms, prognosis, remission, acute, chronic, prevalence, incidence, morbidity, comorbidity, and massage contraindications.

Studying basic medical terminology like prefixes, suffixes and root words is also helpful, especially when working in a clinical setting or with clients who have a more complicated health history. Many times just knowing medical terminology alone is enough to help figure out what an unfamiliar medical term means. For example, cholelithiasis is the medical term for gallstone:

  • “Chole-” means bile or gall
  • “Lith-” means stone or calculus
  • “-asis” or “-iasis” is a suffix meaning condition, presence of, or state
Massage Pathology

Common pathologies massage therapists should know

Common pathologies are medical conditions that are prevalent within a specific population, and are frequently encountered in massage therapy clinical practice. These pathologies have a significant impact on patient health and well-being, and they can range from acute conditions that require immediate attention to chronic diseases that require long-term management.

Some of the most common pathologies include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, and musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis. While these pathologies affect people of all ages, they tend to become more prevalent with age.

In this pathology resource, we will explore some of the most common pathologies in that massage therapists are likely to encounter in their practice. We will discuss common causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention strategies. At the end, I’ve list additional resources like pathology textbooks where you can find more information about how to modify massage treatments for specific conditions.

It is important to note that the pathologies covered in this guide have been studied extensively for years; however, many of them are not yet fully understood. Furthermore, many of these conditions have very little, if any, definitive research done regarding the interactions or effects of massage therapy for people with one or more of these conditions.

If you are still in massage school, preparing for the MBLEx, or are currently a practicing therapist, you may want to bookmark this MT guide to pathology and check out our pathology flashcards for massage therapists. You can also find links to other helpful content on our massage resources page.

Musculoskeletal system pathologies

The musculoskeletal system groups the structures of the muscular system and the skeletal system. These systems are responsible for providing the body with structural support, enabling movement, and protecting vital organs. However, the musculoskeletal system is susceptible to a range of pathologies that can cause significant pain and discomfort, as well as limit mobility. These musculoskeletal pathologies can affect bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other components of these system.

The table below describes some of the most common pathologies that affect the bones and muscles of the body. As a massage therapist, you’ll need to be familiar with each of these pathologies not only for the MBLEx but since you are likely to encounter clients with one or more of these conditions.

PathologyOverview
Adhesive CapsulitisAdhesive Capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a debilitating condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint. It typically affects people between the ages of 40 and 60 and is more common in women than men. The condition occurs when the joint capsule and other tissues around the shoulder joint become inflamed and thickened, making it difficult to move the joint. The symptoms of adhesive capsulitis can have a gradual or sudden onset.

Potential causes of frozen shoulder include genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, certain autoimmune diseases, diabetes, injury or trauma to the shoulder joint, immobilization, repetitive stress injuries, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease or other neurological conditions. The clinical presentation of adhesive capsulitis varies in severity and duration of symptoms. Initially, patients may experience mild discomfort which gradually worsens over time. Eventually, they may find it impossible to lift their arm above their head or reach behind their back without experiencing severe pain. The condition can severely limit daily activities such as dressing oneself or performing routine household chores.

Treatment options for frozen shoulder include conservative measures such as physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, and analgesics. Surgical intervention may be required in more severe cases. Massage therapy can help with reducing pain, increasing flexibility, and reducing hypertonicity of the surrounding muscles.
Baker’s CystBaker’s cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst, is a fluid-filled sac that develops behind the knee. This condition typically occurs when excess synovial fluid accumulates in the knee joint. The swelling from the cyst can cause stiffness and discomfort, especially when bending or straightening the leg. Symptoms often worsen with activity or prolonged standing/sitting.

The most common cause of a Baker’s cyst is an underlying knee joint problem such as arthritis, meniscus tear or cartilage tear. The excess synovial fluid produced by this condition can lead to the formation of a cyst over time. Other factors that may contribute to its development include trauma to the knee, repetitive strain injuries, and certain autoimmune diseases. In some cases, Baker’s cysts may go away on their own without treatment. But if the pain and swelling persist, medical attention should be sought to determine the best treatment option.
BunionA bunion is a common foot deformity characterized by the deviation of the big toe towards the other toes (Hallux valgus), causing a bony prominence on the medial side of the foot at the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. This condition is usually associated with inflammation and pain due to abnormal pressure exerted over the joint structure, resulting in discomfort and limited mobility.

The etiology of bunions may involve genetic predisposition, biomechanical dysfunction, environmental factors, and underlying medical conditions. From a biomechanical perspective, bunions are thought to be caused by excessive pronation of the foot during gait, leading to increased tension on the muscles and ligaments around the big toe joint. This can cause gradual misalignment of the bones within the joint, resulting in progressive deformity over time. Additionally, certain shoe types that are narrow or pointed at the toe box can exacerbate this condition by compressing and squeezing the forefoot area, causing further irritation and inflammation.

Treatment options for bunions range from conservative measures such as footwear modifications and physical therapy to surgical intervention in severe cases. The choice of management strategy depends on various factors including symptom severity, patient preferences, and functional demands. Early detection is essential in preventing exacerbation of this condition.
BursitisBursitis refers to the inflammation of a bursa, which is a small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints, tendons, and muscles throughout the body. This inflammatory disorder is typically caused by repetitive motion or overuse of a joint, resulting in increased pressure and friction within the bursa. The affected area may become swollen, painful, and tender to the touch. Bursitis is often diagnosed by physical examination and imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans.

There are several causes of bursitis, including repetitive motions or overuse of a joint, injury or trauma to the area, infection, certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, and even prolonged sitting on hard surfaces. Symptoms of bursitis include pain and tenderness around the affected joint, swelling and redness in the area, stiffness or limited range of motion in the joint.

Treatment for bursitis typically involves conservative measures such as rest, ice therapy, compression garments, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and physical therapy exercises. In severe cases, aspiration of fluid from the affected bursa or corticosteroid injections may be necessary to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
Degenerative Disc DiseaseDegenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a condition that affects the intervertebral discs of the spine. These discs are the cushion-like structures that separate each vertebral body and act as shock absorbers. With DDD, these discs gradually become thinner and deteriorate as they lose their ability to provide adequate cushion. This often results in symptoms of chronic back pain that worsens with movement or prolonged periods of sitting or standing. This pain may radiate down the leg if nerves are compressed due to bulging or herniated discs. DDD may also result in impaired mobility and a reduced quality of life.

This pathology is often caused by wear and tear of the spine over time. As we age, our bodies lose water content in our spinal discs which can lead to cracks or tears in the outer layers (annulus fibrosus) of the disc leading to further damage. Other factors such as obesity, genetics, smoking or physical labor may also contribute to the development of degenerative disc disease.
Dupuytren contractureDupuytren contracture is a pathology that affects the palmar fascia of the hand. It causes the fascia of the palmar aponeurosis to become thicker and contracted, leading to flexion contractures of one or more flexor tendons of the fingers.

The cause of Dupuytren contracture is still unknown; however, it tends to affect men more than women and typically occurs in people over 50 years old. Risk factors include smoking, alcoholism, diabetes, and certain medications. Initially, a small lump may develop on the palm which can slowly progress into a thick cord-like band extending up one or more fingers.

Treatment options for Dupuytren contracture include collagenase injection, percutaneous needle fasciotomy, as well as radiation therapy. Despite these modalities being effective in some cases, recurrence rates remain high due to the persistent nature of the disease process. If left untreated, Dupuytren contracture can severely limit hand function.
FibromyalgiaFibromyalgia is a complex disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized regions. Individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia frequently suffer from additional symptoms such as sleep disturbances, cognitive dysfunction, and gastrointestinal distress. The cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, but is believed to be related to abnormalities in how the brain processes pain signals. There are several factors that may contribute to the development and progression of fibromyalgia. These include genetic predispositions, environmental influences such as physical trauma or infection, psychological stressors, and alterations in the central nervous system.

One of the challenges of fibromyalgia is that it can be difficult to diagnose. There is no specific test for the condition, and symptoms can overlap with those of other conditions like arthritis or chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, many people may go years without receiving an accurate diagnosis or proper treatment. Currently, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is primarily based on clinical criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology which includes the presence of widespread pain for at least 3 months along with tenderness in at least 11 out of 18 specific tender points located throughout the body. However, recent research suggests that these diagnostic guidelines may not be comprehensive enough to capture all cases of fibromyalgia and other diagnostic modalities such as imaging studies or biochemical assays may be required for accurate diagnosis.

Fortunately, there are treatments available for fibromyalgia that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment approaches vary widely depending on individual patient needs but often include medications such as pain relievers and antidepressants, as well as lifestyle changes like regular exercise and stress management techniques such as massage therapy, yoga and medication.
FractureFracture is a common injury that occurs when there is a break in a bone due to trauma, repetitive stress, or other reasons. Fractures can range from mild (small crack) to severe (complete break that damages surrounding tissues) and can require different treatments depending on the type of fracture.

One of the most common types of fractures is a closed fracture where the bone does not pierce through the skin. Another type is an open or compound fracture where the bone protrudes through the skin. Both types of fractures require immediate medical attention and treatment to avoid further complications. Symptoms of a fracture may include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the affected limb or joint.
Ganglion cystGanglion cysts are a common occurrence in the human body, particularly in the wrist and hand region. They are small, fluid-filled sacs that develop on or near joints and tendons. These cysts typically arise from the synovial joints or tendon sheaths, manifesting as benign growths. While they aren’t typically harmful, they can cause discomfort and pain if left untreated.

The exact cause of ganglion cyst formation is not well understood, but it is believed to involve mechanical stress or repetitive trauma that leads to localized inflammation and accumulation of fluid. The cyst can vary in size from a pea to the size of a quarter and may be firm or spongy to the touch. While ganglion cysts usually develop on the wrist or hand, they can also occur on other parts of the body such as ankles, feet, knees and shoulders.

Current diagnostic techniques for ganglion cysts include physical examination, imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound, and aspiration of cystic fluid for analysis. Treatment options for ganglion cysts include observation, splinting or immobilization, aspiration of the cyst contents, and surgical excision.
GoutGout is a metabolic disorder characterized by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints and soft tissues. This leads to acute inflammatory arthritis. The symptoms of gout include sudden onset of intense pain, swelling, redness, warmth and stiffness in the affected joint. Gout usually affects the big toe joint, but it can also affect other joints such as ankles, knees, wrists, and hands. The pain caused by gout can be excruciating and may last for several days or weeks. Additionally, some people with gout may also experience fever or chills during an attack.

There are several factors that increase the risk of developing gout including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and consuming foods high in purines such as red meat and alcohol. Management of gout typically involves lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, exercise, and dietary changes. Pharmacological interventions include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and uric acid lowering therapies. Early detection and prompt treatment are critical to prevent recurrent attacks and long-term joint damage that may result in chronic disability.
HeadachesHeadaches are an unpleasant sensation that most people experience at some point in their lives. They can range from a dull ache to a sharp, throbbing pain and can be caused by various factors. Understanding the different types of headaches is important for proper diagnosis and treatment. Primary headaches are not associated with any underlying medical condition and are often caused by tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. Secondary headaches are those that arise as a symptom of an underlying health condition such as neck injury/stiffness or sinus infection.

The most common type of headache is tension headache, which feels like a band tightening around the head. It usually has a slow onset and gradually intensifies over time. This type of headache is often caused by stress, anxiety, poor posture or lack of sleep. Another type of headache is migraine, which is characterized by intense pulsating pain on one side of the head along with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last for hours or even days and are often triggered by certain foods, hormonal changes or environmental factors. Cluster headache is characterized by severe unilateral pain that is located around one eye; it may be accompanied by tear formation or nasal discharge.
HerniaHernia is a medical condition that occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through a weakened area of the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. The most common types of hernias include inguinal hernias, which occur in the groin area, and umbilical hernias, which occur near the navel, hiatal hernias (upper stomach), and incisional hernias (in areas weakened by previous surgery).

The most common symptom associated with hernia is a bulge or swelling in the affected area. Other symptoms may include pain or discomfort during physical activity such as lifting heavy objects, coughing or bending over. The occurrence of a hernia is often attributed to increased pressure within the abdominal cavity, whether from heavy lifting, coughing, or straining during bowel movements. In some cases, congenital weaknesses in the muscle or connective tissue may also contribute to hernia formation.

While some hernias may be small and require no treatment except for monitoring by a doctor, others may require surgery to repair the weakened area and prevent further protrusion of organs or tissues.
Herniated DiscA herniated disc, also known as a ruptured or slipped disc, is a condition that occurs when tears occur in the outer layer of fibrous tissue surrounding a spinal disc. This allows the gel-like substance (nucleus pulposus) in the central area of the disc to leak out and press against nearby nerves or the spinal cord. The resulting symptoms can include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected area. In most cases, herniated discs occur in the lower back or neck regions. The causes may vary from excessive strain due to lifting heavy weights to degeneration caused by aging. However, it’s worth noting that not everyone with herniated discs experiences symptoms. Some individuals only discover they have a herniated disc during imaging tests done for other reasons.

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the development of herniated discs, including age-related degeneration, trauma or injury to the spine, and poor posture or body mechanics. Treatment options for herniated discs typically involve a combination of conservative measures such as rest, physical therapy, and medication to manage pain and inflammation. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the affected nerves and restore proper function to the spine.
Hip ArthroplastyHip arthroplasty, also known as total hip replacement, is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a damaged or diseased hip joint and its replacement with an artificial joint. This intervention is typically indicated for patients with severe hip osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or avascular necrosis, who suffer from debilitating pain, limited mobility, and decreased quality of life. Hip arthroplasty aims to restore the functional capacity of the affected hip joint and improve the patient’s daily activities through pain relief, increased range of motion, and enhanced stability.

The procedure involves several steps that require careful planning and execution by a skilled orthopedic surgeon. First, the surgeon makes an incision on the posterior, lateral OR anterior aspect of the hip to access the joint. Then, they remove the damaged cartilage and bone from proximal humerus using specialized instruments. After this debridement process is complete, they insert a metal stem into the femur (thighbone) and attach a metal or ceramic ball at its end. This replaces the head and neck of the femur. They also prepare the acetabulum (the socket in the pelvis) by removing any remaining cartilage and lining it with a smooth plastic cup that can accommodate the new ball joint. Finally, they secure both components together with cement or screws and close up the incision site. Although hip arthroplasty has become a common and successful procedure, it still carries some risks and limitations.
HyperkyphosisHyperkyphosis is a postural deformity that involves an exaggerated forward curvature of the thoracic spine. This condition is commonly referred to as “humpback” or “dowager’s hump”. It primarily affects older adults and is commonly associated with age-related degenerative changes, vertebral fractures, and osteoporosis. The most common cause of hyperkyphosis is poor posture, especially in older individuals. Other potential risk factors include prolonged sitting or standing postures, repetitive loading activities, and poor sleeping habits.

Hyperkyphosis may lead to chronic pain in the neck, back and shoulders, which can cause discomfort and difficulty carrying out daily activities. Patients with this condition may experience decreased range of motion in their neck and shoulders, difficulty performing activities of daily living such as dressing or bathing themselves independently due to limited mobility or pain caused by compression of nerves within the spinal canal. In severe cases, it can affect breathing due to compression of the lung tissue. Treatment for hyperkyphosis depends on its underlying cause. Physical therapy and exercise are often recommended to improve posture and strengthen muscle groups that support the spine. Massage therapy is indicated for relief of discomfort from soft tissue imbalance.
HyperlordosisHyperlordosis, also known as swayback, is a posture deformity characterized by an excessive anterior curvature of the lumbar spine. This abnormality often results in a concave appearance of the lower back, causing significant discomfort and pain for individuals affected by this disorder. The etiology of hyperlordosis is multifactorial and can result from various biomechanical, neurological, or muscular imbalances that disrupt the normal alignment and function of the lumbar spine.

Numerous factors have been identified as contributors to hyperlordosis. These include poor posture habits, muscle weakness or tightness, obesity, pregnancy-related changes in spinal alignment, spinal cord injuries, genetic predisposition to abnormal spinal curvatures, and other underlying medical conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Despite the diverse causes of this condition, all cases share a common feature: excessive anterior pelvic tilt leading to increased pressure on the intervertebral discs and facet joints in the lower back region.

Treatment modalities may include physical therapy exercises aimed at strengthening core muscles and improving postural awareness; Massage therapy to reduce myscle hypertonicity; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to alleviate pain and inflammation; orthotic devices such as braces or corsets designed to support the spine; weight loss programs for individuals who are obese; surgical interventions for severe cases; and other complementary therapies such as chiropractic care or acupuncture.
Iliotibial band syndromeIliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a common overuse injury affecting the lateral aspect of the knee. The iliotibial band (ITB) is a dense fascial structure that originates from the iliac crest and extends down the lateral femur to the tibia, crossing over the lateral condyle of the femur. Its primary function is to stabilize the knee during dynamic movements such as running, walking and jumping.

The etiology of ITBS has been attributed to various factors including poor biomechanics, overtraining, muscle imbalances and anatomical variations. These factors can lead to excessive friction between the ITB and underlying bony structures resulting in irritation and inflammation of the surrounding tissues. Clinically, ITBS typically presents with pain localized to the lateral aspect of the knee that worsens with activity and improves with rest.

Management of ITBS involves addressing underlying biomechanical issues through corrective exercises, modifying training regimens, using therapeutic techniques such as manual therapy and modalities like ice or heat application. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to address structural abnormalities contributing to ITBS symptoms.
Joint dislocation / subluxationJoint dislocation is a common orthopedic injury that occurs when the bones forming a joint become displaced from their normal position. This can result in pain, swelling, loss of range of motion, and difficulty moving the joint. In some cases, the skin around the joint may also appear bruised or discolored. Joint dislocations may be associated with nerve or vascular compromise due to compression or stretching from surrounding tissues. Dislocations can occur in any joint of the human body, but most commonly affect the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and ankle joints. A partial dislocation is called a subluxation.

Treatment strategies for joint dislocation typically involve reduction of the displaced bones back into their normal position followed by immobilization and rehabilitation. In more severe cases or where there is significant soft tissue damage present, surgery may be required to repair damaged structures and restore function to the affected joint.
Knee ArthroplastyKnee arthroplasty, also known as total knee arthroplasty or replacement (TKA or TKR), is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of damaged or diseased bone and cartilage from the knee joint, followed by the implantation of prosthetic components. It is a highly effective intervention for alleviating chronic pain and restoring functional mobility in individuals with severe knee osteoarthritis or other degenerative joint conditions. The procedure can be performed using various techniques and approaches, including computer-assisted navigation, minimally invasive surgery, and patient-specific instrumentation.

The success of knee arthroplasty depends on multiple factors, such as the preoperative status of the joint, patient characteristics, surgical expertise and technique, implant design and materials, postoperative rehabilitation protocol, and long-term follow-up. Despite its high success rate, TKR is associated with certain risks and complications, such as infection, blood clots, implant loosening or fracture, nerve or blood vessel injury, stiffness or instability of the joint, and residual pain or disability.
Lateral Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, is a painful condition that primarily affects the tendons and muscles of the lateral side of the posterior forearm, near the elbow. This disorder is characterized by chronic inflammation of the common extensor tendon and the lateral epicondyle, which is a bony prominence located at the distal humerus.

Lateral epicondylitis is typically caused by repetitive or excessive use of the extensor muscles in the forearm, particularly those that attach to the lateral epicondyle. These muscles are responsible for dorsiflexing and extending the wrist and fingers, and their overuse can lead to microtrauma within the tendons.

Tennis elbow can result in pain, stiffness, weakness, and reduced range of motion in the elbow joint. It can make certain activities such as gripping objects, lifting weights, or turning doorknobs or keys difficult. Treatment options for lateral epicondylitis include rest, physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, and surgical intervention in severe cases.
Lower cross syndromeLower cross syndrome is a musculoskeletal condition that affects individuals who lead sedentary lifestyles or spend long hours sitting at their desks. It is characterized by an imbalance in the muscles of the lower back and hips, leading to pain and discomfort. The condition affects people of all ages, but it is more common in adults who have jobs that require them to sit for extended periods.

The lower cross syndrome is caused by weak abdominal and gluteal muscles, combined with overactive hip flexors and lower back muscles. This leads to an anterior tilt of the pelvis, which puts pressure on the lumbar spine. As a result, individuals with this condition experience lower back pain, hip pain, tight hamstrings, and reduced flexibility.
Medial Epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow)Medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer’s elbow, is a common musculoskeletal condition that affects the tendons of the forearm muscles. This condition is characterized by pain and inflammation at the medial epicondyle of the humerus bone, which is located on the medial side of the elbow joint. Medial epicondylitis may result from various causes such as repetitive wrist motions, direct trauma to the elbow, or overuse of the forearm muscles.

The pathophysiology of medial epicondylitis involves degenerative changes in the tendon fibers due to microtrauma and chronic overload. The repetitive strain on these tendons results in microscopic tears and fibrosis, leading to local inflammation and pain. The primary structures involved in this condition are the flexor-pronator muscles that originate from the medial epicondyle and control wrist flexion and forearm pronation. These muscles have a significant role in gripping activities, throwing sports, and racquet sports that require repetitive wrist movements.

The clinical presentation of medial epicondylitis includes pain and tenderness at the insertion site of the flexor-pronator tendon on the medial epicondyle. Patients may also experience weakness in grip strength and difficulty performing activities that involve wrist flexion or forearm pronation. The diagnosis is typically based on clinical examination findings; however, imaging studies may be necessary to rule out other potential causes of elbow pain.
Muscle CrampMuscle cramp is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It occurs when the muscles contract involuntarily, causing pain and discomfort. Although muscle cramps are not usually serious, they can be extremely uncomfortable and can interfere with daily activities. Understanding the causes and symptoms of muscle cramps can help you manage this condition effectively.

The most common causes of muscle cramps include dehydration, overuse of muscles, poor circulation, and electrolyte imbalances. Dehydration is a leading cause of muscle cramps because it reduces the amount of fluid in your body. Overuse of muscles can lead to fatigue and strain on your muscles, which increases your risk for developing cramps. Poor circulation can also cause muscle cramps because it limits blood flow to your muscles. Electrolyte imbalances occur when there are abnormal levels of minerals such as potassium or calcium in your body.
Muscle strainMuscle strain, also referred to as a muscle pull or tear, is a common musculoskeletal injury that results from the excessive stretching or tearing of muscle fibers. The mechanism of injury for muscle strain usually involves an abrupt and forceful contraction of the affected muscle beyond its normal limits, leading to damage and inflammation of the muscle tissue. The severity of a muscle strain can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the damage sustained by the muscle fibers.

Clinical manifestations of muscle strain typically include pain, swelling, stiffness, weakness, and limited range of motion at the site of injury. These symptoms are thought to be caused by various physiological processes that occur in response to muscle damage, including local inflammation, edema formation, and neuromuscular dysfunction. The diagnosis of a muscle strain is typically based on a thorough physical examination and imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. Management strategies for muscle strains usually involve a combination of rest, ice application, compression bandaging, elevation, analgesics, physical therapy or massage therapy.
Musculoskeletal painMusculoskeletal pain is a condition that affects the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues in the human body. Examples include back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, etc. This common pathology that can range in intensity from mild to severe, potentially causing significant disability and distress. The causes of musculoskeletal pain are varied and can include acute or chronic injuries, inflammatory conditions, degenerative changes, overuse syndromes, and systemic diseases.

Effective management of musculoskeletal pain requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses therapeutic interventions (e.g., manual therapy, movement therapies), pharmacological treatments, psychological therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or mindfulness-based stress reduction. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as exercise programs, dietary changes or relaxation techniques may help improve overall well-being for individuals with musculoskeletal pain.
Myofascial Pain SyndromeMyofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) is a chronic condition characterized by the presence of localized or regional musculoskeletal pain. MPS is commonly associated with the presence of trigger points which are hyperirritable spots within the muscle tissue that cause pain and discomfort. These trigger points can result from altered microcirculation, ischemia, and metabolic changes within the muscle tissue. Trigger points can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, repetitive strain, poor posture, or stress.

Symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may include localized or widespread pain in the affected area, stiffness and limited range of motion, fatigue, and muscle weakness. The pain associated with MPS is often described as deep, dull or aching pain. While it can be challenging to diagnose myofascial pain syndrome since it shares symptoms with many other conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, treatment options are available.

The best treatment options for MPS will vary depending on the severity of symptoms and other individual patiant factors. The most common treatments for myofascial pain syndrome involve physical therapy or massage therapy techniques, stretching or exercises to alleviate tension in affected muscles, or pharmacologic interventions such as analgesics or muscle relaxants.
Myositis ossificansMyositis ossificans is a pathological process that involves the formation of heterotopic bone within muscle tissue as a result of trauma or injury. This condition is often painful and can limit range of motion in the affected area. Myositis ossificans can occur in any muscle group, but it is most commonly found in the arms, legs, and back.

There are several potential causes of myositis ossificans including blunt force trauma, repetitive motions, and surgery. Symptoms may include swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased ROM at the site of injury. Diagnosis typically involves imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to identify the presence of abnormal bone growth within muscle tissue. Treatment options for myositis ossificans depend on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, conservative treatments such as rest and physical therapy may be sufficient to manage symptoms.
Osgood-Schlatter DiseaseOsgood-Schlatter Disease, also known as osteochondrosis of the tibial tubercle, is a pediatric condition that affects the growth plate located at the junction of the patellar tendon and the tibial tuberosity. This disease occurs predominantly in active adolescents who engage in high levels of physical activity or sports activities that involve repetitive stress on their knee joints. The pathophysiology behind Osgood-Schlatter Disease involves micro-trauma to the growth plate leading to inflammation and subsequent calcification.

Clinical presentations of Osgood-Schlatter Disease commonly includes pain, swelling, and tenderness over the tibial tuberosity along with increased pain during activity or after prolonged sitting. Diagnosis of this disease is typically made through a combination of a detailed history and physical examination findings including palpable prominence over the tibial tuberosity, which may be tender to touch.

Treatment for this condition primarily involves conservative measures such as rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications along with physiotherapy focusing on stretching exercises to improve flexibility. In rare cases when conservative management fails or there are severe deformities present, surgical intervention may be considered.
OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic degenerative joint disease (DJD) that is characterized by a progressive loss of cartilage in the affected articulating surfaces, resulting in joint pain, inflammation and stiffness. This condition usually affects the older adults and is considered one of the most common forms of arthritis. The symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to develop gradually and worsen over time. Pain during or after movement is one of the primary symptoms of osteoarthritis. Other symptoms include stiffness in the affected joint, a grinding sensation when moving the affected joint, tenderness around the affected area and loss of flexibility or range of motion. In some cases, osteoarthritis can cause lead to alterations in subchondral bone (below the cartilage), and cause bone spurs to form around joints which can further limit mobility and exacerbate symptoms.

Etiology of this wear-and-tear disease includes several factors such as age, genetics, gender, obesity, injury or trauma to the joint, muscle weakness, and abnormal biomechanics. Treatment options for osteoarthritis include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. Non-pharmacologic therapies include exercise therapy aimed at improving range of motion and strength around the affected joint, weight management programs designed to reduce pressure on the joint surface, physical therapy modalities such as heat or cold therapy along with electrotherapy to alleviate pain symptoms, and massage therapy to relieve muscle pain and tension. Pharmacologic therapies aim at reducing pain through analgesic medications such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
OsteoporosisOsteoporosis is a disease characterized by a decrease in bone density which makes bones more fragile and results in an increased risk of fracture. This pathology affects both men and women, but most commonly affects older women. The etiology of osteoporosis is multifactorial, involving environmental, genetic, hormonal, and nutritional factors.

One of the key pathophysiological mechanisms that underlies osteoporosis is an imbalance between bone resorption (the breakdown of old bone tissue) and formation (the synthesis of new bone tissue). This can be caused by various factors such as aging, menopause, sedentary lifestyle, low dietary calcium intake, vitamin D deficiency, certain medications like glucocorticoids, and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or hyperthyroidism. The diagnosis of osteoporosis is usually made through a combination of clinical evaluation and imaging studies like an x-ray or bone scan. Management of OA involves lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise and optimal nutrition, as well as pharmacological interventions.
Paget’s DiseasePaget’s Disease is a chronic and progressive skeletal disorder that affects the normal formation and resorption of bone tissue. This disease is characterized by an abnormal and chaotic remodeling of affected bones, resulting in their enlargement, deformity, and increased fragility. Common symptoms include bone pain, fractures, arthritis-like joint pain, neurological complications due to compression of adjacent nerves or spinal cord, hearing loss due to involvement of the temporal bone, and other complications such as heart failure or renal dysfunction. Diagnosis of Paget’s Disease is based on a combination of clinical features, imaging studies (such as X-rays), blood work, and sometimes biopsy confirmation. Current treatment options for Paget’s Disease aim to reduce bone turnover and alleviate symptoms.
Plantar fasciitisPlantar fasciitis is a common and debilitating condition that affects the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that spans the bottom of the foot from the calcaneous to the toes. This pathology is characterized by inflammation and micro-tears in the plantar fascia, which can cause intense pain and discomfort. The condition often presents with a sharp, stabbing sensation in the heel or arch of the foot, particularly upon taking first steps in the morning or after periods of rest.

Risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis include age, body weight, foot structure and biomechanics, excessive physical activity or prolonged standing on hard surfaces. Diagnosis typically involves a clinical examination as well as imaging studies such as X-rays or ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other potential causes of foot pain.

Treatment for plantar fasciitis may include a combination of conservative measures such as rest, gentle stretching exercises, orthotics or supportive footwear, corticosteroid injections, or even surgical intervention in rare cases where symptoms are severe or fail to respond to initial treatment modalities.
Repetitive strain injuryRepetitive strain injury (RSI) is a common workplace disorder caused by the continuous repetition of motions that require fine motor skills, such as typing, using a mouse, using tools, and even playing video games. The condition has been associated with various occupations, including data entry clerks, factory workers, machine operators, and musicians. RSI affects the musculoskeletal system and involves pain, discomfort, or numbness, weakness in specific areas of the body like the hands, wrists, arms or shoulders. In severe cases, the disorder can lead to significant functional limitations and long-term disability. The prevalence of repetitive strain injuries has increased significantly in recent years due to changes in work organization and technology evolution.
Rotator cuff syndrome / injuryRotator cuff syndrome, also called rotator cuff injury or tear, is a common orthopedic condition that affects one or more of muscles and tendons in your shoulder joint which are collectively referred to as the rotator cuff (RC). This syndrome typically develops over time as a result of wear and tear from repetitive overhead arm motions or sports involving throwing, such as baseball, tennis or swimming. The supraspinatus muscle is most commonly affected. Other factors that can contribute to the development of rotator cuff injury, including aging, overuse, trauma, and genetic predisposition.

Signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff injury can vary depending on the severity of the damage, but they typically include pain in the shoulder area, weakness when lifting objects overhead, and difficulty with certain movements like reaching behind your back due to decreased range of motion (ROM). In some cases, patients may also experience swelling or bruising around the shoulder joint.

Treatment for rotator cuff syndrome typically involves rest and physical therapy to strengthen the affected muscles and improve flexibility. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed to reduce pain and swelling. In severe cases, surgical intervention such as arthroscopic repair may be needed. If left untreated, a rotator cuff injury can lead to chronic pain and reduced range of motion in the affected arm.
Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome)Runner’s knee, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is a common clinical condition among individuals who engage in physical activities that involve repetitive knee bending. PFPS is characterized by pain and discomfort at the anterior aspect of the knee joint, particularly around the patella or kneecap, during activities such as running, jumping, and squatting.

The etiology of runner’s knee is believed to result from a combination of anatomical and biomechanical factors. For example, abnormal tracking of the patella over the femoral groove due to weakness or imbalance in the muscles that control its movement. This can lead to excessive pressure on certain areas of the joint, resulting in inflammation and pain. Other contributing factors may include structural abnormalities such as flat feet (pronated), genu valgus (knock knees), overuse or repetitive stress injuries from excessive training or poor technique, and degenerative changes associated with aging.

Diagnosis of PFPS often involves a physical examination and imaging studies such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess for any underlying structural damage. Treatment options typically involve a combination of rest, physical therapy to strengthen weak muscles and improve alignment, use of supportive braces or orthotics to correct biomechanical abnormalities, and medication to manage pain and inflammation. In severe cases where conservative measures fail to provide relief, surgery may be necessary to repair damaged structures within the joint.
ScoliosisScoliosis is a spinal deformity characterized by an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. It is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions and can be mild or severe, affecting children and adults alike. While some cases of scoliosis are caused by underlying genetic conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, most cases of scoliosis have no known cause.

In addition to spinal curvature, signs and symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade appearing more prominent than the other, uneven pelvis, and an asymmetrical ribcage. In severe cases, scoliosis can cause back pain and difficulty breathing as organs become compressed due to the curvature of the spine.

Treatment options for scoliosis depend on several factors such as curve location and magnitude, patient age and overall health status. Conservative management strategies typically include physical therapy exercises aimed at improving strength and flexibility while minimizing pain. Early detection is crucial in treating scoliosis as it allows for non-invasive treatment options like bracing or physical therapy. For more severe cases or those with significant progression over time, surgical intervention may be needed to correct spinal alignment and prevent further deterioration. If left untreated, scoliosis can lead to permanent spinal deformity and impaired lung function.
Shin SplintsShin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, is a common overuse injury that affects the lower leg. It primarily occurs in athletes who engage in repetitive impact activities such as running, jumping, and dancing. This condition is characterized by swelling and a dull ache or sharp pain along the tibia (shin bone), which can worsen with activity and may become excruciatingly painful and debilitating over time. In some cases, individuals may experience numbness or tingling sensations in their feet or ankles due to poor circulation caused by the injury.

The etiology of shin splints involves various biomechanical and physiological factors including changes in bone density, muscular imbalances, poor foot arch structure, and improper footwear. Shin splints often occur when individuals increase their level or intensity of physical activity too quickly. The excessive force placed on the lower leg during these activities can cause microtrauma to the tissues surrounding the tibia resulting in inflammation and pain. Treatment for shin splints typically involves a combination of rest, ice therapy, compression bandaging, stretching exercises, and modifications to footwear or training programs.
SprainA sprain is a common musculoskeletal injury that results from excessive mechanical force being applied to a joint, which overstretches or tears a ligament. Sprains can range from mild to severe, and are typically classified based on the extent of damage to the ligament (e.g., 1st degree, 2nd degree, 3rd degree). Sprains are most commonly observed in weight-bearing joints such as ankles, knees, and wrists. Anyone can sprain a ligament; however, athletes participating in high-impact sports are at an increased risk.

Symptoms of a sprain include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the affected joint. Treatment of a sprain depends on the severity of the injury. Conservative measures include rest, ice, compression therapy, elevation of the affected limb along with analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications for pain relief. In severe cases where conservative management fails or when there is significant joint instability, surgical intervention may be necessary.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD)Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, commonly referred to as TMJ disorder or TMJD, is a condition that affects the jaw joint and muscles that control its movement. This condition can cause pain in the TMJ and muscles of mastication (e.g., masseter, pterygoids, temporalis), making it difficult to chew or speak properly. It can also lead to headaches, earaches, clicking or popping sounds in the jaw when opening or closing the mouth.

There are several factors believed to play a role in the development of TMJ disorder. These include genetics, abnormal occlusion (teeth contact), psychological stress, arthritis, injury to the jaw area, and teeth grinding. Women between 20-40 years old are more likely than men to develop this condition. Treatment options for TMJD include conservative therapies such as physical therapy exercises for strengthening the jaw muscles, medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief, occlusal splints or bite guards, and avoiding hard foods and gum chewing. TMJ massage using trigger point techniques, stretches and other manual therapy techniques can help with relieving pain and improving jaw muscle function in some cases.
TendinitisTendinitis, also spelled tendonitis, is a common pathology that occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed or irritated. Tendons are the strong, fibrous tissues that connect muscle to bone. This painful condition can occur in any part of the body where tendons are present, but it most commonly affects the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, and ankle joints. There are specific types of tendinitis based on location (e.g., Achille’s tendinitis, supraspinatus tendinitis, and tennis elbow).

Factors that can lead to developing tendinitis include age-related degeneration of tendons, poor posture, repetitive microtrauma from overuse or strenuous activity (e.g., running, tennis, throwing), poor blood supply to the tendon, genetic predisposition, improper technique during physical activities, inadequate warm-up before exercise, and improper equipment such as poorly fitting shoes or sports gear. Symptoms of tendinitis can range from mild to severe and often include pain, tenderness and swelling.

Treatment for tendinitis typically involves a combination of rest, ice (cryotherapy), bracing or splint, and anti-inflammatory medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids if necessary. Physical therapy may also be recommended to improve flexibility and strength of the affected area. Massage therapy is indicated for tendinitis.
TenosynovitisTenosynovitis is a condition that occurs when the synovial sheath that surrounds a tendon becomes inflamed. This synovium is a protective sheath that surrounds a tendon in order to reduce friction and facilitate movement. Signs and symptoms of tenosynovitis include pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected joint(s). In severe cases, tenosynovitis may lead to stiffness or contractures in the affected joint.

Treatment options for this condition include rest, immobilization of the affected area, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles and restore range of motion, anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and pain, corticosteroid injections, or surgical intervention in refractory cases.
TorticollisTorticollis, also known as cervical dystonia or wry neck, is a condition that affects the muscles of the neck causing it to twist or turn in an abnormal position. This condition can result in pain, discomfort, and disability. It primarily affects the muscles responsible for controlling head rotation and lateral flexion. Torticollis condition can be congenital or acquired and may affect individuals of all ages. Congenital torticollis occurs due to abnormal positioning of the head in utero, while acquired torticollis can occur due to injury, infection, or trauma.

The most common symptoms of torticollis include stiffness and pain in the neck muscles leading to restricted movement of the head. Individuals with this condition may experience headaches and discomfort in their shoulders due to compensating for their limited range of motion. Treatment options for torticollis vary depending on its severity and cause, but may include pharmacological interventions, botulinum toxin injections, physical therapy, massage therapy, and surgical procedures.
Upper cross syndromeUpper cross syndrome is a condition that affects the musculoskeletal system and is characterized by a pattern of muscle imbalances in the upper body. This syndrome is often associated with prolonged periods of poor posture, which can lead to the development of chronic pain. It is also associated with forward head posture, elevated and protracted shoulders, kyphosis, and winging of the scapulae.

The hallmark feature of upper cross syndrome is an imbalance between the muscles that stabilize the neck and shoulder girdle. Specifically, the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, and pectoral muscles become overactive, tight and shortened. In contrast, the deep cervical flexors, serratus anterior, and middle/lower trapezius muscles become weakened and less active. Treatment options include physical therapy, massage therapy, and corrective exercise and stretches designed to address muscle imbalances while promoting optimal neuromuscular function.
WhiplashWhiplash, also known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) injury, is a common musculoskeletal trauma resulting from a sudden and forceful movement of the neck. This injury occurs when the head is rapidly accelerated forward and then immediately decelerated backward, leading to a hyperextension-hyperflexion motion of the cervical spine. The severity of injury depends on the velocity and direction of impact, head and neck position at impact, and individual anatomical variations.

The pathophysiology of whiplash may involve soft tissue damage, bony fractures, disc herniation or protrusion, spinal cord injury and other neurological damage. The most commonly affected structures are the ligaments, muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels surrounding the cervical spine. These tissues undergo micro-tears or stretching leading to inflammation and pain in the neck region along with associated symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, neck and jaw pain, stiffness, fatigue, tinnitus (ringing in ears), and paresthesia in the arms and hands. Chronic whiplash syndrome may develop due to persistent pain and disability even after initial healing has occurred.
MBLEx practice tests for the massage exam

MBLEx Practice Exams

Review your mastery of pathology for massage therapists with our MBLEx practice tests. These quizzes and full-length exams cover of all 7 content areas of the FSMTB massage licensing exam. This test prep system provide correct answer rationales and record your results for you to review and track your progress.

Nervous system pathologies (physical)

The nervous system is a complex network of tissues and cells that controls our body’s functions including movement, sensation, and cognition. It consists of the brain, spinal cord, and a network of nerves that transmit signals throughout the body. Unfortunately, this intricate system is vulnerable to a variety of pathologies that can cause dysfunction. Any disruption or damage to this system can result in various neurological disorders that affect a person’s mobility, sensation, cognition, mood, and overall quality of life. Pathologies can result from injury, infection, genetics, and degeneration.

This section covers some of the most common pathologies affecting the nervous system that have primarily physical signs and symptoms. The table below provides an overview of each condition, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Understanding these conditions is essential for both clients or patients who may be experiencing symptoms, as well as massage and bodywork professionals seeking to treat them safely and effectively.

PathologyOverview
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative neurological disorder that primarily affects the motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. This pathology causes progressive muscle weakness and atrophy (wasting away), leading to difficulty in speaking, swallowing, breathing, walking, and eventually paralysis and death. The onset of ALS typically occurs between the ages of 40-70 years old.

The etiology of ALS remains poorly understood, although it is believed to arise from a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. There is currently no known cure for ALS. However, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for those affected by the condition. The most common treatment for ALS involves medications to slow down the progression of the disease. Additionally, occupational therapy and assistive devices such as wheelchairs or communication aids can also be utilized to aid those living with ALS in their daily lives.
Bell’s palsyBell’s palsy is a form of facial paralysis that is characterized by the sudden onset of unilateral weakness or paralysis of the muscles innervated by the facial nerve (CN VII). The etiology of Bell’s palsy remains unclear, but it is believed to be related to a viral infection, inflammation or trauma that affects the facial nerve. Symptoms of Bell’s palsy usually occur suddenly and progress rapidly over the course of several hours to a day. Some common symptoms include drooping of one side of the face, decreased tear production, difficulty smiling or closing an eye, drooling, changes in taste perception, headache or earache on one side of the head. In severe cases, patients may experience difficulty with speech and eating due. It’s important to note that these symptoms may also be present in other serious conditions such as stroke (CVA).

Treatment options for Bell’s palsy depend on the cause, but may include include antiviral medications, corticosteroids, physical therapy, and surgery in some cases. Despite these interventions, many patients may experience incomplete recovery or residual symptoms such as facial asymmetry. Although Bell’s palsy is not life-threatening, it can cause emotional distress and affect a person’s quality of life.
Carpal tunnel syndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common pathology that results from compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel of the wrist. There are several factors that increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, including repetitive use of hands and wrists, and certain medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis, obesity, pregnancy, and certain genetic factors. CTS is a relatively common injury among massage therapists and other people who work with repetitive hand and wrist movements, such as musicians, hair stylists, and office workers. Other conditions that compress the median nerve at the elbow, shoulder or neck may produce symptoms similar to those associated with CTS.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness of the muscles that the median nerve innervates. The area that the median nerve innervates includes the radial aspect of the hand, the first 3 digits, and the medial part of the ring finger. The symptoms of CTS can range from mild to severe depending on the amount of nerve compression. Some people may experience only occasional tingling or numbness in their hands while others may have constant pain that interferes with their daily activities. Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome may include physical therapy, ergonomic interventions, and surgical intervention in severe cases.
Chronic Fatigue SyndromeChronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complex and debilitating condition that is characterized by prolonged periods of fatigue, and is often accompanied by other symptoms such as muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, cognitive difficulties, and immune dysfunction. The fatigue from CFS can be so debilitating that it interferes with daily activities and may not improve with rest. The severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person and may come and go over time.

The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome remains unknown; however, research suggests that it may be triggered by viral infections, immune system dysfunction, neuroendocrine dysfunctions, and mitochondrial dysfunction among other potential causes. Because there is no specific diagnostic test for CFS, doctors must rely on patient history and physical exam findings to make a diagnosis. There is currently no cure for CFS. Treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exercise therapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications aim to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Chronic painChronic pain is a common condition in which pain persists over an extended period of time, usually beyond three months, despite therapeutic interventions. It is typically distinguished from acute pain which is short-lived and adirect response to injury or illness. Chronic pain often continues long after the original source of the pain has healed, and can severely affect a person’s quality of life.

Chronic pain involves complex interactions between biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. It can be initiated by a variety of causes such as injury, nerve damage, arthritis and other medical conditions. Psychological factors such as anxiety and depression have been shown to exacerbate chronic pain by increasing sensitivity to pain.

Living with chronic pain can be challenging, and it often requires a multidisciplinary approach to manage effectively. Treatment options may include medication, physical therapy, psychological counseling, and surgery in some cases. In addition to these traditional methods, alternative therapies such as massage therapy, acupuncture and meditation have also been found to be beneficial in managing chronic pain.
Dementia (Alzheimer’s disease)Dementia is a neurological pathology that results in memory loss, declined cognitive function, and behavioral changes. It is characterized by the progressive degeneration of neurons in the brain. Dementia typically appears in individuals over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for up to 60-80% of all cases. Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. The early signs and symptoms of dementia are often subtle go unnoticed. In its advanced stages, individuals with dementia may experience difficulty communicating or carrying out basic tasks such as eating or getting dressed.

The pathogenesis of dementia involves complex mechanisms that include oxidative stress, inflammation, and beta-amyloid plaque formation. These factors contribute to the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain which disrupt neural networks and lead to neuronal cell death. Additionally, genetic predisposition has been implicated in some forms of dementia such as early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. Diagnosis is typically based on medical history, cognitive assessments, and neurological examinations. There is currently no known cure for dementia. Treatment options are limited and primarily aimed at slowing down the progression of symptoms rather than reversing them entirely. Caregiver support and management strategies are essential for improving quality of life for both patients and their families.
Parkinson’s diseaseParkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive degenerative disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It is caused by the deterioration of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Dopamine plays a crucial role in controlling movement, so when these neurons are damaged or die, patients experience tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, postural instability, and difficulty with coordination. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it can lead to severe complications such as dementia or depression.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Medications such as levodopa and dopamine agonists can increase dopamine levels in the brain and alleviate some symptoms. Physical therapy and exercise can also be beneficial for improving mobility and balance.
Peripheral NeuropathyPeripheral neuropathy is a medical condition that affects the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for transmitting signals between the central nervous system (CNS) and the rest of the body. It is characterized by damage or dysfunction of peripheral nerves, leading to impaired sensory and/or motor function. Peripheral neuropathy can cause a wide range of symptoms, including numbness, tingling, burning pain, muscle weakness, atrophy, decreased coordination, and muscle cramps.

The etiology of peripheral neuropathy can be diverse, ranging from genetic predisposition, metabolic disorders, infections, toxins, trauma to autoimmune diseases. There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy, including diabetes, alcoholism, chemotherapy drugs, infections, and autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Diagnosis typically requires a neurological examination, nerve conduction studies and imaging techniques. Treatment options for peripheral neuropathy are limited and usually focus on managing symptoms rather than reversing nerve damage. Pain relief medications such as opioids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used in conjunction with physical therapy to improve mobility and muscle strength.
Raynaud’s SyndromeRaynaud’s Syndrome is a disorder that affects the blood vessels, causing them to narrow and reduce blood flow to certain areas of the body, especially the fingers and toes. The condition usually occurs in response to cold temperatures or stress, causing discoloration of the affected area. It can also cause pain and numbness in severe cases. While not life-threatening in itself, Raynaud’s Syndrome can cause significant discomfort and limit functional ability for those who suffer from it.

The signs and symptoms of Raynaud’s Syndrome include changes in skin color from white to blue or red as a result of restricted blood flow. Some individuals experience tingling or burning sensations along with swollen or tight skin around their fingertips. While there’s no cure for Raynaud’s Syndrome, there are treatment options available that can help manage symptoms such as medication, lifestyle changes, and avoiding triggers like exposure to cold temperatures.
SciaticaSciatica is a condition caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve which results in inflammation and pain. The most common symptoms of sciatica includes sharp radiating pain from the lower back to the buttocks and legs, accompanied by numbness, tingling sensations, and muscle weakness. The pain can range from mild to severe and can cause significant discomfort and reduced mobility. The etiology of sciatica is often attributed to herniated discs or degenerative changes in the spine.

Diagnosis of sciatica may involve imaging studies such as MRI scans or CT scans to confirm the presence of nerve damage or spinal abnormalities. Treatment options for sciatica can range from conservative measures such as pain management medication and physical therapy to more invasive interventions like surgical decompression. Prevention is key when it comes to sciatica. Maintaining good posture while sitting and standing can help prevent this painful condition. Additionally, regular exercise that strengthens the core muscles can also be helpful in preventing sciatica.
Seizure disordersSeizure disorders are a group of neurological conditions characterized by a sudden abnormal surge of electrical activity in the brain. A seizure can cause convulsions and loss of consciousness, and can range from mild to severe. Seizure disorders are caused by a variety of factors, including genetic mutations, brain injuries, infections, and metabolic imbalances.

There are many different types of seizure disorders, including epilepsy, febrile seizures, and nonepileptic seizures. Epilepsy is the most common type of seizure disorder and affects around 3 million people in the United States. It is characterized by recurrent seizures that may occur without warning or trigger.

Treatment options include antiepileptic medications, surgical interventions, and neuromodulation techniques such as deep brain stimulation. However, many patients still experience significant morbidity from their condition including cognitive impairment, psychosocial distress, and increased risk for injury or death during seizures.
StrokeA stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a serious medical condition that occurs when blood flow to a specific region of the brain is suddenly disrupted. This can be caused by a blockage or rupture of blood vessels in the brain, leading to damage or death of brain cells. Strokes can result in debilitating neurological consequences such as hemiplegia, aphasia (impaired speech), cognitive impairment, sensory deficits, and death.

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes make up the majority (80%) of all strokes and result from thrombotic or embolic occlusions within cerebral arteries. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by rupture or leakage within cerebral blood vessels resulting in bleeding in the brain. Certain factors increase the risk of stroke, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking, diabetes mellitus, obesity, dyslipidemia, and heart disease. Signs and symptoms of stroke depend on the type of stroke and the area of the brain that is affected. They may include sudden weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, vision changes, severe headache or dizziness.

Treatment for strokes typically involves emergency care to minimize brain damage and rehabilitation to improve function and quality of life. Supportive care measures including rehabilitation therapy, pharmacotherapy targeted at minimizing the extent of injury or preventing subsequent events, and lifestyle modifications aimed at reducing modifiable risk factors for stroke.
Thoracic Outlet SyndromeThoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a condition that occurs when the neurovascular structures in the thoracic outlet region become compressed. This region is located between the clavicle, the first rib, and the scapula, and it contains several vital structures such as nerves, arteries, and veins that supply and innervate the upper extremities. Compression of these structures can cause pain, paresthesia (numbness or tingling) in the fingers or hand, and weakness in the arm and hand. Some people may also experience headaches and difficulty sleeping due to discomfort caused by TOS.

There are several causes of thoracic outlet syndrome including poor posture, repetitive strain injury, trauma to the area, or congenital abnormalities. Treatment options for thoracic outlet syndrome may include physical therapy to improve posture, strengthen muscles, and relieve soft tissue restrictions around the affected area. Medications may be prescribed for pain management, and surgery may be needed in severe cases. Massage therapy is often indicated to correct soft tissue imbalance and help improve posture and alignment.

Nervous system pathologies (mental)

This section lists some common pathologies of the nervous system that primarily affect a person’s cognition or mood. Many of these conditions result from a combination of physical factors like changes in the brain or body chemistry, as well as cognitive or psychological factors. From anxiety to PTSD, these disorders can have a significant impact on an individual’s life. Massage therapists that have a basic understanding of the causes and effects of these conditions will be in a better position to provide therapeutic services that meet the client’s needs.

PathologyOverview
Anxiety DisorderAnxiety disorder is a complex and multifaceted condition that affects millions of people and is characterized by a range of symptoms. These symptoms include excessive and persistent feelings of tension, fear, and worry that are often disproportionate to any actual threat or danger that may be present in the individual’s environment. Anxiety disorders can manifest in a variety of physical symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe physical distress, including heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and panic attacks. This common mental health issue often results in significant impairment in daily functioning, as well as decreased quality of life for affected individuals.

There several subtypes of anxiety disorders, each with specific symptom profiles and underlying etiologies. One common type is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is marked by persistent and pervasive worry about a range of everyday concerns. Other types include panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and specific phobias. Each type has its unique set of symptoms and triggers but shares some common signs and symptoms like muscle tension, restlessness, irritability or sleep disturbances.

The etiology of anxiety disorder is thought to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and cognitive factors. Researchers have identified several key neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine that are believed to play a critical role in regulating mood and emotion. Additionally, studies have shown that early life stressors such as childhood abuse or neglect can increase an individual’s risk for developing anxiety disorder later in life. Treatment for anxiety disorder typically involves a combination of pharmacotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques aimed at reducing symptoms and improving overall functioning.
AutismAutism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that presents in early childhood and is characterized by impairments in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. The etiology of autism remains unclear, but it is generally thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been steadily increasing over the past few decades.

Individuals ASD can show significant variability in their symptom presentation and severity. Some individuals with ASD may have exceptional abilities in specific cognitive or perceptual domains, while others may experience significant intellectual or language impairment. Children with ASD may have difficulty making eye contact, understanding social cues or expressing emotions properly. They may also engage in repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping or rocking back and forth. Treatment plans often involve therapies such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational therapy, and medication management when necessary.
DepressionDepression is a complex mood disorder that is characterized by symptoms that include persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, loss of interest in activities, as well as changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and energy levels. The etiology of this common mental illness remains poorly understood, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, neurobiological, environmental, and psychological factors. Environmental stressors such as trauma or chronic stress may also trigger a depressive episode.

Deficiencies or imbalances in serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine may contribute to the development of symptoms of depression. Other theories emphasize the role of . Regardless of its cause(s), depression can have profound effects on an individual’s quality of life and may require comprehensive treatment involving medication, therapy, or other forms of intervention. Treatment options include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes such as exercise and healthy eating habits, and support from loved ones.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that develops following exposure to a traumatic event. This includes events that are experienced or witnessed. Symptoms of PTSD often include intrusive re-experiencing of the traumatic event (flashbacks), nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, negative alterations in mood and thinking patterns, increased arousal and reactivity (hypervigilance), or being easily startled. These symptoms can cause significant distress and interfere with daily functioning.

PTSD has been linked to various neurobiological changes, including alterations in brain structure and function, dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and abnormalities in neurotransmitter systems such as noradrenaline and serotonin. Additionally, genetic factors may play a role in an individual’s susceptibility to developing PTSD.

Treatment of PTSD typically involves psychotherapy approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as well as pharmacotherapy using antidepressants or antipsychotics. Without proper treatment and support, individuals with PTSD may develop other mental health issues such as depression or substance abuse disorders.
StressStress is a response to perceived or actual threats, challenges, or demands that exceed an individual’s coping resources. This definition highlights the subjective nature of stress and its dependence on individual differences in cognitive appraisal and coping strategies. Stress is often associated with anxiety, depression, and physical illness such as cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction. Stress can be triggered by a range of factors including work-related pressures, financial difficulties, relationship problems, and traumatic events.

Stress can be categorized into various types based on its duration and intensity. Acute stress is a short-term response to immediate challenges or threats, while chronic stress is prolonged exposure to persistent or recurring stressors that can lead to detrimental health outcomes. Both forms of stress have been linked to adverse psychological and physiological consequences.

The physiological mechanisms underlying stress involve the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system (SNS), resulting in the release of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare the body for a “fight or flight” response by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. While this response can be adaptive in short-term situations, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to chronic activation of these systems which have deleterious effects on health. Massage therapy is indicated to help relieve symptoms of stress.
MBLEx Prep Course massage exam

MBLEx Prep Course

Learn massage pathology with our online MBLEx Prep Course. This organized course provides a comprehensive review of all 7 content areas of the MBLEx. Our Silver and Gold memberships include this course along with our practice tests and muscle flashcards for a complete test prep system.

Integumentary system pathologies

The integumentary system is responsible for protecting the body from from things like injury, infection and extreme temperatures. Components of the integumentary system include skin, hair, nails, sebaceous glands and sweat glands. Like other systems of the body, the integumentary system is vulnerable to certain pathologies.

The table below provides a brief overview of some common pathologies that primarily affect the integumentary system. Since this is the main system that massage therapists directly contact, it is important to know these conditions may affect a massage treatment plan. Some of these conditions may require a treatment modification while others may be a local of absolute contraindication for massage therapy.

PathologyOverview
AcneThere are several types of acne. Acne rosacea, also known as rosacea, is a chronic skin condition that is characterized by redness and bumps on the face. Rosacea typically occurs in adults over the age of 30 and tends to affect women more than men. The exact cause of acne rosacea is unknown, but it is believed to be linked to genetics, environmental factors such as sun exposure and stress, and certain foods or beverages like alcohol or spicy food. The symptoms of this condition can vary from person to person but may include flushing or redness across the nose and cheeks, small red bumps that may become pus-filled pimples, swollen eyelids or a burning sensation in the eyes. While there is no cure for acne rosacea at present, there are treatment options available that can help manage its symptoms.

Acne vulgaris is another common type of acne. This common inflammatory skin disorder occurs when the pores on the skin become clogged with dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria. The result is pimples, blackheads, whiteheads or cysts on the face, neck, chest or back. There are many causes of acne vulgaris including hormonal changes during puberty and pregnancy, genetics, stress levels, certain medications or cosmetics. There are a variety of treatments available to manage this condition including topical and systemic agents that aim to reduce inflammation, unclog pores and inhibit bacterial growth. Examples include over-the-counter products such as salicylic acid washes and benzoyl peroxide creams to prescription-strength antibiotics or retinoids for severe cases.
BoilBoil is a skin lesion that is commonly referred to as a furuncle. It is a painful, pus-filled bump on the skin that has localized inflammation and is often caused by a bacterial infection (most commonly Staphylococcus aureus). Boils are most often found on the face, neck, armpits, and buttocks but can appear anywhere on the body.

The development of a boil begins with a red and tender lump that gradually increases in size and becomes filled with pus. The surrounding area may also become swollen and inflamed causing pain to the touch. If left untreated, boils can burst open on their own releasing an unpleasant odor. There are several ways to treat boils depending on their severity. Mild cases may require simple home remedies such as applying warm compresses to promote drainage while severe cases may require medical intervention including antibiotics or surgical procedures.
BurnsBurns are a common injury that can result from exposure to high temperatures, radiation, chemicals or electricity. Burn injuries are complex and can affect various layers of the skin, including the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissues. Additionally, burns can cause a variety of complications such as infection, scarring, and psychological trauma.

Burns can range from mild to severe and can cause pain, swelling and even death in extreme cases. The severity of burns is measured by degrees: first-degree burns only affect the top layer of skin and typically heal within a week or two, while second-degree burns go deeper into the skin layers causing blistering and may take up to three weeks to heal. Third-degree burns are the most severe type of burn, and they penetrate all layers of the skin which can lead to permanent tissue damage. These types of burns require immediate medical attention as they are often accompanied by shock or infections which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.
CellulitisCellulitis is a common bacterial infection caused by the invasion of various bacteria such as streptococci, staphylococci or anaerobes into the subcutaneous tissues. The infection usually develops in areas of skin lesions (e.g., wounds or ulcers) but may also occur spontaneously in areas of intact skin. Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, but it most commonly affects the arms and legs.

Clinical presentation of cellulitis varies depending on the severity and location of the infection. Common signs and symptoms develop over several days and include erythema (redness), warmth, swelling, and pain in the affected area. Other S/S include fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes. Once inside the skin, bacteria proliferate rapidly and trigger an inflammatory response by releasing various toxins and enzymes. People with weakened immune systems are more prone to developing cellulitis due to their impaired ability to fight off infections.

Treatment for cellulitis usually involves antibiotics that target the infection-causing bacteria. In severe cases where oral antibiotics are not effective enough, hospitalization may be required for intravenous antibiotic treatment.
DermatitisDermatitis is a common skin condition characterized by inflammation of the skin. It can cause itchiness, redness, swelling, and other discomforts. Dermatitis can be caused by a variety of factors including allergic reactions, irritants like soaps and detergents, genetics, or even stress. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may last for weeks or months.

There are several types of dermatitis such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), and stasis dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition that usually begins in childhood and can be triggered by environmental allergens like pollen or pet dander. Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant like poison ivy or nickel in jewelry.
EczemaEczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by red, dry, itchy and scaly patches that can appear anywhere on the body. This common skin condition can be triggered by a variety of factors such as stress, allergens, irritants and infections. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.

There are several types of eczema including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, nummular eczema and dyshidrotic eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema which typically occurs in childhood but can also affect adults. Contact dermatitis is caused by exposure to an irritating substance such as detergent or chemicals. Nummular eczema appears as round patches on the skin while dyshidrotic eczema affects the hands and feet with small blisters.
HivesHives, also known as urticaria, is a skin condition that causes itchy and raised welts on the skin. These welts can range in size from small dots to large patches and can appear anywhere on the body. Hives are usually caused by an allergic reaction to something you have come into contact with or eaten.

The symptoms of hives may include itching, burning or stinging sensations on the skin, redness and swelling around the affected area. Treatment for hives typically involves antihistamines to reduce itching and inflammation. Severe cases that involve difficulty breathing or swallowing require immediate medical attention. In severe cases, corticosteroids may be administered or prescribed to help calm down the immune system’s response.
RingwormRingworm is a common fungal infection that affects the skin, nails, and scalp. It is caused by a group of fungi known as dermatophytes which are fungi that have the ability to break down keratin, which is a protein found in hair, skin and nails. Despite its name, ringworm has nothing to do with worms.

Symptoms of ringworm include red, scaly patches on the skin that may be itchy or painful. The patches often have clear centers and are shaped like rings, hence the name “ringworm.” In some cases, blisters or pustules may also form. Ringworm on the scalp can cause hair loss in affected areas.

Ringworm is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact with an infected person, as well as through contaminated objects such as towels, combs, and sheets. The fungi responsible for causing ringworm thrive in warm and moist environments, such as locker rooms or shower stalls. Treatment for ringworm typically involves antifungal medication such as topical creams or oral medications.
WartsWarts, also known as verrucae, are a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. These small, rough growths can appear on any part of the body and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The pathophysiology of warts involves virally-induced hyperproliferation of keratinocytes, which leads to the development of benign epithelial growths on the skin.

There are several different types of warts, including common warts, plantar warts, flat warts, and genital warts. Common warts usually appear on the hands or fingers and have a rough surface with black dots in the center. Plantar warts develop on the soles of the feet and can be painful when walking. Flat warts are often found on the face or legs and have a smooth surface. Genital warts occur in the genital area and can be transmitted through sexual contact.

Treatment for warts varies depending on their location and severity. Examples of treatment options include various topical agents such as salicylic acid and cryotherapy, as well as surgical excision or laser therapy for more resistant cases.

Circulatory system pathologies

The cardiovascular system, also known as the circulatory system, is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues, transporting hormones and fluids, and removing waste products produced by the cells of the body. Components of this system include the heart as well as an intricate network of veins, arteries, and capillaries. Pathologies of the cardiovascular system occur when these structures become damaged or their a disease process disrupts its normal function.

Since enhancing circulation is one of the mechanical effects of massage therapy, it is important for practitioners to be familiar with pathologies of the circulatory system and how massage techniques and related treatment modalities may affect clients when one or more of these pathologies are present.

PathologyOverview
AnemiaAnemia is a medical condition that is characterized by a reduction in the total number of red blood cells or hemoglobin concentration in the bloodstream. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body. This condition leads to reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood resulting in hypoxia, which is a state where the body tissues do not receive sufficient oxygen to support their normal metabolic functions. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath during physical activity, dizziness or lightheadedness.

There are several types of anemia, including iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin-deficiency anemias (such as B12 deficiency), and hemolytic anemias (where red blood cells are destroyed faster than they’re produced). Anemia can be caused by various factors such as nutritional deficiencies, genetic disorders, infections, autoimmune diseases, bleeding disorders, and chronic illnesses such as cancer and kidney disease. Although anemia can affect anyone, it’s more common in women and people with chronic diseases.
ArteriosclerosisArteriosclerosis is a pathological condition characterized by the thickening and hardening of the arterial walls. This condition is caused by a buildup of plaque (e.g., lipids, collagen, and calcium deposits) in the interior walls of the arteries (intimal layer), which can restrict blood flow and lead to serious health problems. The lipid deposits within this plaque triggers an immune response that further promotes inflammation and oxidative stress. Over time, these changes lead to a progressive narrowing of the arterial lumen, impairing blood flow to vital organs such as the heart, brain, and kidneys.

Arteriosclerosis is often referred to as a silent disease because it does not usually cause symptoms until it becomes advanced. The clinical consequences of arteriosclerosis are diverse and range from asymptomatic disease to acute events such as myocardial infarction or stroke. There are several risk factors associated with arteriosclerosis, including age, family history, smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia), diabetes mellitus, and obesity.
Atrial FibrillationAtrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) is a cardiac arrhythmia characterized by an irregular and often rapid heartbeat. It is the most common type of arrhythmia, affecting millions of people worldwide. The condition occurs when the electrical impulses that control the heartbeat become disorganized or chaotic.

The underlying causes of A-fib are not fully understood but risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and valvular heart disease have been identified. The symptoms of can vary from person to person. Some people may not even know they have it, while others experience palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and lightheadedness. If left untreated, AFib can lead to serious complications such as stroke and heart failure.

Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for those with AFib. Medications such as blood thinners and anti-arrhythmic drugs can help control symptoms and prevent complications. In some cases, procedures like ablation therapy or cardioversion may be necessary to restore normal heart rhythm.
Blood clotA blood clot, also known as a thrombus, is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood thickens and clumps together, forming a solid mass. This mass can then block the flow of blood to vital organs, leading to potentially life-threatening complications. The process of clotting, or coagulation, is an essential mechanism in the body’s response to injury or trauma. However, when this process becomes dysregulated or excessive, it can have damaging consequences.

An embolism is a blood clot or other material that travels through the bloodstream and obstructs a smaller blood vessel. This can lead to organ damage and even death. An embolism can affect any part of the body, but it most commonly occurs in the lungs, brain, or legs. The most common cause of embolism is the formation of a blood clot, which travels through the bloodstream until it lodges in a smaller vessel. However, other sources of embolism may include air bubbles, fat particles or foreign bodies that enter the circulatory system.

There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing a blood clot including age, obesity, smoking, pregnancy, and certain medications. Symptoms of a blood clot may include swelling, pain, warmth or redness in the affected area. If a massage client is experiencing any of these symptoms or you suspect you they may have a blood clot, it is important for the client to seek medical attention before providing any massage or bodywork. Treatment for a blood clot will depend on its location and severity. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help thin the blood and prevent further clots from forming.
Deep vein thrombosisDeep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins within the body, usually in the legs or pelvis. The condition poses a serious health risk that can lead to stroke or pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when a blood clot breaks loose, travels to the lungs and becomes lodged in a pulmonary blood vessel, blocking circulation.

Rick factors of developing DVT include obesity, smoking, prolonged bed rest or sitting for long periods of time, genetic predisposition, pregnancy and taking certain medications such as birth control pills. Signs and symptoms of DVT include swelling in the affected limb, pain or tenderness when standing or walking, and warm skin around the affected area. The diagnosis of DVT involves imaging studies such as ultrasound or venography, which allow for visualization of the clot within the affected vein. Treatment for DVT typically involves medication called anticoagulants which help to thin out blood clots preventing them from growing larger and breaking off into other parts of the body.
Heart attackA heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood flow to part of the heart muscle is severely impaired or blocked. This can be caused by a buildup of fatty deposits called plaques in the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The resulting lack of oxygen (ischemia) and nutrients can cause irreparable damage to the heart tissue, leading to chest pain, shortness of breath, and possible death. Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death worldwide, with millions of people affected every year.

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person but often include chest pain or discomfort that may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in other areas such as arms, neck, jaw or back. Other common signs include shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea or vomiting. It is important to note that some individuals may not experience any symptoms at all which is why it is crucial to understand the risk factors for a heart attack.

Effective management of heart attacks requires prompt recognition and intervention to restore blood flow to the affected area of the heart. Treatments such as thrombolytic therapy or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) aim to dissolve or remove clots from the coronary arteries and restore blood flow. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, healthy diet, regular exercise, and control of other risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension can help prevent future occurrences.
HematomaA hematoma is a localized accumulation of blood that occurs due to damage or injury to blood vessels within the body. This injury can be caused by a variety of factors including blunt trauma, or medical procedures such as surgery or injections. The resulting blood clot is outside of the blood vessels, and may form in different locations throughout the body, such as the skin, muscle tissue, organs, and even within bones.

Hematomas are generally classified into two types: subcutaneous hematomas and intramuscular hematomas. Subcutaneous hematomas occur when there is bleeding beneath the skin, often after an injury or trauma. These are usually visible as bruises or discolored patches on the skin’s surface, but they may also cause pain or discomfort. Intramuscular hematomas occur when blood pools within muscle tissue, causing swelling and pressure on nearby nerves. Both types of hematoma can be painful, but they are generally treatable with rest, compression bandages, over-the-counter pain relievers, drainage procedures, or surgical intervention in more severe cases.

The severity and symptoms of a hematoma will vary depending on its location and size. Smaller hematomas may resolve on their own without intervention, while larger ones may require medical attention to prevent further damage or complications. Understanding the pathophysiology and identification of hematomas is crucial for massage therapists and other healthcare providers in order to provide appropriate care and facilitate optimal patient outcomes.
HemophiliaHemophilia is a complex genetic disorder that affects the blood’s ability to clot. This medical condition results in prolonged bleeding times, spontaneous bleeding events, excessive bruising, and internal bleeding episodes, which can lead to serious health complications.

There are two main types of hemophilia: hemophilia A and hemophilia B. Hemophilia A is caused by a deficiency in clotting factor VIII, while hemophilia B is caused by a deficiency in clotting factor IX. Both types of hemophilia are inherited, and symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the level of factor deficiency. Hemophilia occurs almost exclusively in males, as it is caused by mutations on the X chromosome.

While there is currently no cure for hemophilia, treatment options include replacement therapy with clotting factors or medications that help promote blood clotting. Individuals with hemophilia may also benefit from physical therapy and other supportive measures to prevent joint damage and improve mobility.
HypertensionHypertension (HTN), also known as high blood pressure, is a chronic medical condition characterized by elevated arterial pressure exceeding 140/90 mm Hg on a regular basis. The higher the blood pressure, the harder the heart has to work to pump blood through the body. HTN is a common pathology that can cause damage to your arteries and increase your risk of serious health problems like cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.

There are two types of hypertension: primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension is the most common type and develops gradually over time with no clear cause. Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, is caused by an underlying condition such as kidney disease or sleep apnea.

The pathophysiology of hypertension involves complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors that affect the regulation of blood vessel tone and fluid balance. The etiology of hypertension is multifactorial and involves various physiological mechanisms that lead to vasoconstriction, increased systemic vascular resistance, and impaired renal function that contribute to the development of hypertension. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as sedentary behavior, poor diet choices, obesity, smoking habits can exacerbate these pathological processes.

Hypertension can be managed through lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet low in sodium and alcohol intake, quitting smoking if you smoke, weight loss (if overweight), and managing stress levels. In addition, pharmaceutical interventions like antihypertensive drugs may be prescribed.
HypotensionHypotension, commonly known as low blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood flowing through your arteries is abnormally low. This can cause dizziness, fainting or even shock if not treated properly. Symptoms of hypotension include fatigue, syncope, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision and nausea. In severe cases, hypotension can lead to fainting, shock, organ failure and even death if not treated properly.

There are various factors that can lead to hypotension including acute dehydration, certain medications, severe infections, and underlying pathologies such as cardiovascular disease or certain endocrine disorders. Orthostatic hypotension (AKA postural hypotension) is a specific type of low blood pressure caused by changing positions (e.g., lying down to standing up). Massage therapists need to be aware of this to help prevent clients from falling when getting up from the massage table.

Treatment options depend on the severity and underlying cause of the condition and may range from lifestyle changes to medication. In some cases, simple measures such as fluid resuscitation or adjustments to medications may be sufficient to restore blood pressure levels to within normal range. However, more complicated interventions such as surgical procedures or advanced pharmacological therapies may be necessary for patients with refractory hypotension.
Peripheral Artery DiseasePeripheral artery disease (PAD) is a medical condition that affects the blood vessels located outside of the heart and brain, also known as peripheral arteries. The development of PAD is characterized by a narrowing or blockage of these arteries, which impedes the flow of oxygen-rich blood to various parts of the body. This pathology commonly manifests in the lower extremities, where it results in symptoms such as leg pain, cramps, and weakness during physical activity like walking or exercising.

The etiology of PAD is multifactorial and involves various risk factors such as aging, smoking, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, dyslipidemia, and a sedentary lifestyle. Physicians use multiple methods for assessing PAD severity and establishing an appropriate management plan. These include symptom-based assessment tools like the ankle-brachial index (ABI), imaging modalities such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and invasive procedures like angiography.

While there is no cure for peripheral artery disease, there are several treatments available that can manage the symptoms and slow its progression. These treatments include lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and exercising regularly, medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and in severe cases surgery may be required. Early detection and intervention can prevent disease progression and reduce morbidity associated with complications such as critical limb ischemia or amputation.
PhlebitisPhlebitis, also known as thrombophlebitis, is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the wall of a vein caused by the formation of a blood clot. This condition may occur in any part of the body but is most common in the lower extremities. Signs and symptoms of phlebitis include pain, swelling, redness or discoloration of the affected area and warmth. The skin surrounding the affected vein may also feel tender or hard to touch. In severe cases, phlebitis can lead to complications such as pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis which can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Phlebitis can be caused by a number of factors including prolonged sitting or standing, injury to the vein or an underlying medical condition such as cancer. The etiology of phlebitis involves numerous risk factors such as obesity, pregnancy, smoking, oral contraceptive use, immobility, and trauma.

The diagnosis of phlebitis is made through a combination of clinical examination and imaging studies such as ultrasound or venography. Treatment options for phlebitis include anticoagulation therapy with heparin or warfarin to prevent further clot formation, or even surgical intervention in cases where conservative management fails.
Varicose veinsVaricose veins are a common medical condition where the veins, particularly in the legs, become swollen and twisted, causing pain, discomfort and abnormal appearance. Varicose veins are more common in women than men, especially women who have had multiple pregnancies.

The main cause of varicose veins is weakened valves in the leg veins that allow blood to flow backward instead of upwards towards the heart. This causes blood to pool in the legs, leading to swelling and inflammation of the vein walls. Other factors that contribute to varicose veins include obesity, genetics, age and prolonged sitting or standing.

Various treatment options exist for managing this condition including compression stockings, lifestyle changes, venous ablation therapy or surgical intervention depending on the severity of the disease.

Massage for clients with allergies

Allergies are a common medical condition that occur when the immune system overreacts to normally harmless substances such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, certain foods, topical products, or medications. During an allergic reaction, the body’s immune response triggers a chain reaction that releases chemicals like histamine causing various symptoms including sneezing, itching, swelling and difficulty breathing. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe, and potentially be life threatening.

Being aware of each client’s allergies and understanding the basic pathology of common allergies is important for massage therapists in order to prevent an allergic reaction during a treatment.

PathologyOverview
Allergic ReactionAn allergic reaction is a complex immunological response that occurs when the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to an otherwise harmless substance known as an allergen (e.g., food, medication, latex, insect bite, nuts, essential oil). It can range from a mild and localized reaction to severe and systemic. The most common symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching, hives or rash on the skin, swelling of the face or tongue, difficulty breathing or swallowing, abdominal pain or diarrhea. It is important for massage therapists to ask new clients about allergies before initiating treatment.
AnaphylaxisAnaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening hypersensitivity reaction that occurs as a result of exposure to an allergen. It is characterized by the rapid onset and progression of symptoms, including hives, swelling of the face and airway, hypotension, cardiac arrhythmias, and respiratory distress. Treatment for anaphylaxis involves prompt administration of epinephrine (e.g., via auto-injector such as EpiPen®), which acts to counteract the effects of mediators released during the allergic response. In addition to epinephrine, other medications such as antihistamines and corticosteroids may be used to manage symptoms and prevent recurrence. If left untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to shock and even death.
DermatitisDermatitis is a common inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by a range of clinical manifestations, including erythema (redness), edema (swelling), and pruritus (itching). Some common causes include allergies to certain foods or substances, exposure to irritants like soaps or detergents, and even stress. The symptoms of dermatitis can range from mild itching and redness to more severe cases that result in blistering or open sores.

While there are many different types of dermatitis, the most common form is known as atopic dermatitis or eczema. This type of dermatitis often occurs in individuals with a family history of allergies or asthma and typically begins during childhood. Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with specific substances like poison ivy, nickel-containing jewelry, or an irritant such as a detergent.

Common infections to be aware of

Infections are one of the most common health issues that humans experience. Infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites or other pathogens, and they can range from mild to life-threatening. The study of infectious disease involves understanding how these pathogens enter the body, how they interact with the immune system, and how they cause disease.

Sooner or later all practicing massage therapists will encounter a client with a current infection or a history of infection. It is important for therapists to understand how to adjust a treatment plan in order to protect themselves, the client, and other clients if the condition is contagious. Some infections may require a minor treatment modification while others are a systemic contraindication for massage. The table below provides a brief overview of a few common infections that massage therapists should know for the MBLEx and for clinical practice.

PathologyOverview
ConjunctivitisConjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is a highly contagious infection that affects the conjunctiva, which is the thin and transparent membrane covering the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. This inflammatory condition can be caused by viruses, bacteria or allergens and can affect anyone regardless of age. Conjunctivitis usually presents with symptoms such as redness, itching, discharge from the eyes, tearing and sensitivity to light.

Viral forms of conjunctivitis are often associated with colds or other upper respiratory infections and typically lasts for 1-2 weeks. Bacterial conjunctivitis may also cause similar symptoms but tends to produce more discharge from the eyes than viral cases. Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when an allergen irritates the eyes causing itching and swelling in addition to redness.

Treatment for conjunctivitis depends on its underlying cause and severity. Mild cases may resolve spontaneously without any intervention while others may require prescription medications such as antibiotics, antihistamines or steroids depending on the causative factor. Strict hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing and avoiding touching eyes can also help prevent transmission of infectious forms of conjunctivitis.
HerpesHerpes is a viral infection caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). This chronic and recurring pathogen is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause painful blisters and sores in the genital area, mouth, or anus. Once infected with herpes, the virus remains in the body for life and can recur frequently. The transmission of HSV occurs through direct contact with an infected individual’s skin or mucous membranes. The virus can also be spread from mother to newborn during delivery or via contaminated surfaces.

The most common types of herpes are HSV-1 and HSV-2. The former usually causes cold sores on the lips or face while the latter is responsible for genital herpes. Both viruses are highly contagious and can spread through skin-to-skin contact. While there is no cure for herpes, antiviral medication can help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission to others.
LiceLice is a highly contagious parasitic infection that commonly affects individuals of all ages, especially school-aged children. These parasites spread easily from one person to another through direct head-to-head contact or by sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, hats, and headphones. Lice are tiny, wingless parasites that feed on human blood and can cause intense itching and discomfort. This may also lead to secondary complications such as bacterial skin infections. Despite their small size, lice infestations can be challenging to eliminate, making prevention especially important.

There are three types of lice that commonly affect humans: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. Head lice are the most common type and are found on the scalp. Body lice live on clothing or bedding but move onto the skin to feed. Pubic lice are typically found in genital hair but can also affect other areas with coarse hair like armpits or facial hair. The life cycle of lice involves three stages: egg (nit), nymph, and adult. Female lice lay their eggs close to the scalp, where they are kept warm by body heat. The eggs hatch after about 7-10 days into nymphs that resemble adult lice but are smaller in size. Nymphs molt three times before reaching adulthood and become capable of reproducing at around 10 days old. Adult lice live for about 30 days and lay up to ten eggs per day.

Effective treatment of lice infestations requires the use of pediculicides, which are chemical agents that kill the parasites. However, overuse or misuse of these products can lead to resistance development among lice populations, making them more difficult to eradicate over time. Therefore, it is critical to follow proper procedures for treating head lice infestations while minimizing the risk of adverse effects associated with pediculicides exposure.
MRSAMethicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections. MRSA infections have become increasingly prevalent in healthcare settings over the past few decades. This microbe can be found on the skin or in the nose of healthy individuals and can also cause skin infections. MRSA can spread through direct contact with an infected person or by touching contaminated objects.

The symptoms of MRSA include redness, swelling, warmth, and tenderness around the affected site. In severe cases, MRSA infections can lead to bloodstream infections and pneumonia. Individuals who are at higher risk for contracting MRSA include those who have weakened immune systems, are hospitalized frequently or reside in long-term care facilities. Prevention measures for MRSA include washing hands regularly with soap and water or using hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol content.
ShinglesShingles is a painful viral infection that affects the nerves and skin. The virus responsible for shingles is the same one that causes chickenpox (varicella-zoster virus). A shingles outbreak is caused by the reactivation of this virus which remains dormant (latent) in the dorsal root ganglia after an initial chickenpox infection.

Signs and symptoms of shingles are a and itchy rash with fluid-filled blisters along a single dermatome on one side of the body or face. Some patients may also experience fever, headache, malaise or fatigue, or sensitivity to light. Shingles typically affects older adults or those with compromised immune systems. Treatment options for shingles include antiviral medications to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, as well as analgesics for pain management.
StaphylococcusStaphylococcus is a type of spherical-shaped bacteria that can cause a range of infections in the body. These infections can range from minor skin infections to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia and sepsis. Staphylococcus bacteria are commonly found on the surface of our skin and mucous membranes, as well as in environmental sources such as soil and water.

Staphylococcus aureus, or S. aureus for short, is one of the most common types of Staphylococcus bacteria that causes infections in humans. It has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics over time, making it difficult to treat. MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of S. aureus that is resistant to multiple antibiotics and can be especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems.
StreptococcusStreptococcus is a bacteria commonly found in our bodies that can cause various diseases. This bacteria belongs to the genus Streptococcus, which is classified based on its characteristics. Some species of this bacteria are harmless, while others can cause serious infections.

One of the most common infections caused by Streptococcus is strep throat. This infection affects the throat and tonsils causing symptoms such as sore throat, fever, and swollen glands. Another type of infection caused by this bacteria is pneumonia, which affects the lungs and can be life-threatening if left untreated. Streptococcus can also cause skin infections such as impetigo or cellulitis, which are characterized by redness, swelling, and pain in the affected area. In some cases, this bacteria can lead to more severe conditions such as sepsis or toxic shock syndrome.
TineaTinea is a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin, nails, and hair. It’s caused by dermatophyte fungi that thrive in warm and moist environments. The most common types of tinea include athlete’s foot, jock itch, ringworm, and scalp ringworm. Tinea infections are highly prevalent worldwide, especially in humid areas.

The symptoms of tinea vary depending on the type of infection but may include redness, itching, scaling or flaking of the skin or scalp, blisters filled with fluid or pus, and hair loss. In severe cases or when left untreated for long periods of time, tinea can lead to secondary bacterial infections. Treatment options for tinea depend on the severity and location of the infection but often involve antifungal creams or oral medications.
TuberculosisTuberculosis, also known as TB, is a highly infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB primarily affects the lungs causing symptoms such as coughing, chest pain and difficulty breathing, but it can also affect other organs such as the brain, kidneys, and bones. Tuberculosis is a chronic infectious disease that is transmitted through the airborne route when infected individuals cough or sneeze which releases tiny droplets into the air which are then breathed in by others nearby.

Diagnosis of tuberculosis involves a combination of clinical presentation, radiographic findings, laboratory tests, and microbiological confirmation of M. tuberculosis infection from sputum or tissue samples. Treatment typically involves a combination of antibiotics over several months to effectively kill all bacterial populations and prevent relapse. Despite being treatable, TB remains one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.

Lymphatic system pathologies

The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in maintaining health by protecting the body from infections and disease. It is composed of a network of vessels, nodes, glands, ducts and lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic system functions to maintain the body’s fluid balance and immune function. Lymphatic massage is a form of manual therapy designed to enhance this function.

Some pathologies affect the lymphatic system directly while others affect it indirectly. These pathologies can range from minor swelling in limbs or glands to life-threatening conditions like lymphoma. Pathologies related to the lymphatic and immune systems can affect people of all ages and genders and may be caused by a variety of factors including infection, injury, cancer or genetic mutations. Massage therapists should inquire about clients’ history of this type of pathology during the assessment of on the health history form during the client intake process.

PathologyOverview
EdemaEdema is a pathological process characterized by the accumulation of excess interstitial fluid in tissues of the body. It can occur in any part of the body. Symptoms of edema may vary depending on the underlying cause but typically include swollen legs or arms, bloated abdomen or face, stiff joints, difficulty moving limbs or breathing difficulties.

Common causes of edema include pregnancy, injury, heart failure, liver disease, and kidney disease. Physiological changes such as increased capillary permeability, impaired lymphatic drainage, or altered osmotic pressure gradients result in increased fluid volume in tissues of the body.

Treatment for edema involves addressing the underlying cause along with medications to reduce fluid retention such as diuretics. Physical modalities such as compression therapy or lymphatic drainage techniques may also be beneficial. Lifestyle changes like reducing salt intake and regular exercise can also aid in preventing further fluid buildup. If left untreated or undiagnosed for an extended period of time, edema can result in severe complications such as skin ulcers and permanent tissue damage.
LymphangitisLymphangitis is a medical condition that occurs when there is an inflammation of the lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic system plays a vital role in the immune system by helping to fight infections and diseases. When the vessels become inflamed, they may be unable to carry out their function effectively.

The most common cause of lymphangitis is an infection, usually caused by bacteria or viruses. Infections can occur anywhere in the body, but they are most commonly found in areas such as the arms and legs. Other potential causes of lymphangitis include exposure to certain chemicals, radiation therapy, trauma to the affected area, or underlying medical conditions such as cancer or autoimmune disorders.

Symptoms of lymphangitis include redness and swelling around the affected area, along with pain and tenderness. You may also experience fever and chills as your body tries to fight off the infection. Treatment for this condition typically involves antibiotics or antiviral medication depending on the underlying cause.
LymphedemaLymphedema is a chronic condition that is characterized by the swelling of an arm or leg due to the accumulation of lymphatic fluid. This pathology occurs when the lymphatic system, which is responsible for removing excess fluids from the body, is damaged or blocked. This swelling can range from mild to severe, and often causes discomfort, pain, and restricted mobility in affected regions.

The causes of lymphedema are varied and can include cancer treatment, surgery, infection, or injury to the lymph nodes. While there is no cure for this condition, there are ways to manage its symptoms effectively. Treatment options include compression therapy (wearing special garments), massage therapy, exercise programs specifically designed for those with lymphedema, and medications that help reduce inflammation and swelling.

Endocrine system pathology

The endocrine system is composed of glands and hormones that regulate various bodily functions. When the normal functioning of this system is disrupted by a pathology, it can lead to a variety of disorders that can have a significant impact on a person’s overall health. Common pathologies affecting the endocrine system include diabetes mellitus, thyroid disorders, adrenal gland dysfunction, pituitary gland disorders, and reproductive hormone imbalances.

PathologyOverview
Cushing syndromeCushing syndrome, also called hypercortisolisms, is a serious endocrine disorder that results excess or prolonged exposure to cortisol. This could be from overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands, or excessive use of corticosteroid medications. This excess cortisol can cause a range of symptoms and complications.

One of the most common symptoms of Cushing syndrome is weight gain, particularly around the face, neck, and midsection. Other symptoms can include high blood pressure (HTN), muscle weakness, mood swings, and increased thirst and urination. In severe cases, Cushing syndrome can also lead to osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression, and even psychiatric disturbances such as depression and anxiety. These symptoms result from the systemic effects of cortisol on various organs and tissues in the body. Diagnosis of Cushing syndrome typically involves blood tests to measure cortisol levels in the body. Treatment options may include surgery to remove tumors or medications to reduce cortisol production.
DiabetesDiabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, is a chronic metabolic disorder that results in high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The common endocrine pathology is characterized by the inadequate production or utilization of insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating the absorption of glucose by cells throughout the body. An individual with diabetes may experience hyperglycemia, which can result in a range of complications such as neuropathy, retinopathy, and cardiovascular disease.

Dibetes can be classified into two broad categories: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response that destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, individuals with this form of diabetes must rely on insulin injections to regulate their blood sugar levels. In contrast, type 2 diabetes develops due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors that result in insulin resistance. This form of diabetes can often be managed through dietary changes and physical activity; however, medication may also be necessary.

While there is curently no cure for diabetes, ongoing research is focused on developing new treatments and management strategies for individuals affected by this chronic disease. Effective management of diabetes requires regular monitoring of blood glucose levels and adherence to prescribed treatment plans.
Graves’ diseaseGraves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid gland that results in hyperthyroidism. This condition is characterized by an overproduction of thyroid hormones, which are responsible for regulating metabolic processes in the body. Graves’ disease is one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of this condition can be mild or severe, and they usually develop gradually. Some of the common signs and symptoms include weight loss despite increased appetite, anxiety, trembling hands, palpitations & rapid heartbeat, fatigue, insomnia, exophthalmos (bulging eyes), heat intolerance and sweating excessively even in cool temperatures.

The onset of Graves’ disease is believed to be caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental triggers and individual immune response. Diagnosis of this pathology involves a combination of blood tests to check for high levels of thyroid hormone and antibodies against the thyroid gland. Treatment options include anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine therapy or surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. If left untreated, Graves’ disease can lead to serious complications such as heart problems and vision loss.
Hashimoto’s diseaseHashimoto’s disease, also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism and other bodily functions. In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing inflammation and damage to its cells. This results in reduced production of thyroid hormones, leading to an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.

Researchers believe that genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and immunological dysfunction play a role in the development of Hashimoto’s disease. The clinical manifestations of this condition are varied and depend on the stage and severity of the disease. Patients with early-stage disease may be asymptomatic or present with mild symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, and constipation. As the disease progresses, patients may develop goiter or enlarged thyroid gland due to inflammation and fibrosis. Severe cases can lead to depression and cognitive impairment. Women are more likely than men to develop Hashimoto’s disease. Diagnosis typically involves a blood test to measure levels of certain hormones produced by the thyroid gland as well as antibodies produced by the immune system against the thyroid.
HyperthyroidismHyperthyroidism is an endocrine disorder in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, resulting in an overactive metabolism. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms such as palpitations or rapid heartbeat, weight loss, increased appetite, sweating, anxiety, irritability, tremors, difficulty sleeping, and muscle weakness. While hyperthyroidism can affect anyone at any age, it is more common in women than men.

There are many potential causes of hyperthyroidism including Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland and stimulates excess hormone production. Other causes include thyroid nodules or inflammation of the thyroid gland itself. In some cases, hyperthyroidism may be temporary and resolve on its own while other cases may require ongoing treatment with medications or even surgery to remove the thyroid gland entirely. Treatment options depend on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms, and include antithyroid medications that inhibit hormone synthesis, as well as radioiodine therapy that destroys overactive cells in the thyroid gland.
HypothyroidismHypothyroidism is a common medical condition that occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, which can lead to a wide range of symptoms and health issues. Some common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, hair loss, dry skin, and depression.

There is currently no cure for hypothyroidism, but there are many treatments available that can help manage the symptoms. One of the most common treatments for this condition is hormone replacement therapy. This involves taking synthetic thyroid hormones to replace those that are not being produced by the body. In addition to medication, there are also lifestyle changes that can be made to help manage hypothyroidism. These include eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders are a group of diseases in which the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues, mistaking them for foreign pathogens. These disorders can affect any part of the body, from the skin to internal organs, and can have a wide range of symptoms. This can lead to chronic inflammation, tissue damage, and organ dysfunction. Autoimmune disorders are often chronic, meaning they last for many years or even a lifetime.

There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders, with some being more common than others. These diseases can occur at any age and affect both men and women. Autoimmune disorders can be difficult to diagnose since symptoms often overlap with other diseases and may vary widely from person to person. Common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, digestive problems, and neurological issues.

PathologyOverview
Crohn’s diseaseCrohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This pathological condition can cause a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system from mouth to anus; however, it most commonly affects the end of the small intestine and beginning of the large intestine.

The exact cause (etiology) of Crohn’s disease is unknown but researchers believe that there are several factors involved in its development including genetics, an abnormal immune response, environmental triggers such as diet or stress and changes in gut bacteria. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease at this time, but treatments are available to help manage symptoms and prevent complications. These may include medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressants as well as surgery in severe cases.
HIV / AidsHIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a retrovirus that attacks and weakens the immune system. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. This makes it difficult for them to fight off infections and diseases, leading to various illnesses and serious health complications such as opportunistic infections, certain types of cancer, and potentially death. HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk.
LupusLupus, also called as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a complex autoimmune disorder that affects multiple organ systems in the human body. It is a common pathology in which the antibodies of the immune system attack healthy tissues and organs in the body, causing inflammation, pain, and damage. Lupus can affect any part of the body, including skin, joints, kidneys, heart, and lungs. Some of the common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain and stiffness, feverish feeling, skin rashes or lesions that worsen with sun exposure.

The cause of lupus is unknown; however, research suggests that genetics and environmental factors play a crucial role in its development. While there is no cure for lupus yet, many treatments are available to manage its symptoms and improve quality of life. These treatments may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids to reduce inflammation levels in the body or other immunosuppressant medications.
Multiple sclerosisMultiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and debilitating disease of the central nervous system (CNS), characterized by progressive demyelination of axons in the brain and spinal cord, leading to a range of neurological symptoms. It is an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering (myelin) of nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This results in a range of symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, spasticity, vision problems, numbness or tingling in the limbs, cognitive impairment, and difficulty with coordination and balance.

While MS can occur at any age, it often strikes people between the ages of 20 to 40 years old with women being twice as likely to develop it than men. The exact etiology (cause) of multiple sclerosis is not yet fully understood but it is believed that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. There are various types of MS including relapse-remitting MS (RRMS), primary-progressive MS (PPMS), secondary-progressive MS (SPMS), and progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS). Current treatments for MS aim to reduce inflammation in the CNS and slow down the progression of disability.
PsoriasisPsoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin. It causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, leading to thick, scaly patches that are often itchy and painful. This common condition can occur anywhere on the body but is most commonly found on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. It affects approximately 2-3% of the population and can have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life.

The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown; however, it is believed to be related to an immune system problem in which T cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells. Genetics and environmental factors such as stress or infections may also play a role in its development. Although there is no cure for psoriasis, there are many treatment options available to help manage symptoms. These include topical creams and ointments, light therapy (phototherapy), oral medications, and biologic drugs.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects approximately 1% of the population. Women are more likely than men to develop RA and it typically begins between the ages of 30-50 years old. This common disorder primarily affects the synovial tissue of joints, leading to inflammation in the joints which can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are highly variable, but typically includes symmetric polyarthritis with morning stiffness, joint swelling, pain, and deformities over time. Synovitis is a hallmark feature of rheumatoid arthritis. RA can also damage other organs and tissues throughout the body (e.g., heart, lungs, and eyes). Extra-articular features may include skin nodules, vasculitis, interstitial lung disease, pericarditis, or neuropathy. Diagnosis is based on a combination of clinical findings (e.g., joint examination), blood tests, and imaging studies.

The exact cause of RA is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for RA but there are many treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for those living with this condition.

Digestive system pathologies

The main functions of the digestive system is to break down and process food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste. However, like any other system of the body, it is susceptible to a range of pathologies that can affect its normal functioning. Digestive system pathology refers to any condition or disease that affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or accessory organs such as the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. These conditions can range from minor issues like indigestion and heartburn to more serious conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver cirrhosis, and pancreatitis. Massage therapists that understand the basic disease process and symptoms of these conditions are better able to help their clients.

PathologyOverview
CachexiaCachexia is a condition that afflicts many people with chronic diseases such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), HIV/AIDS, and heart failure. It is characterized by systemic inflammation and progressive wasting of muscle and fat tissue that can lead to severe weight loss, weakness, and fatigue. Although cachexia is most commonly associated with advanced stages of these illnesses, it can occur at any time during their course. Cachexia is associated with poor prognosis and increased morbidity and mortality rates.

The exact cause of cachexia is not well understood, but research suggests that it may be related to a combination of factors including inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and metabolic dysfunction. As a result of these underlying processes, the body begins to break down muscle tissue for energy instead of using stored fat reserves. This results in a downward spiral where patients become weaker and more susceptible to infection and other complications.

Treatment options for cachexia are limited and often focus on managing symptoms rather than addressing the root cause. Nutritional interventions such as oral supplementation or enteral feeding may help improve nutritional status; however, they do not always prevent or reverse muscle wasting. Exercise training has emerged as a promising strategy to counteract muscle wasting by promoting muscle protein synthesis.
Crohn’s DiseaseCrohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract that primarily affects the small and large intestines. It is classified as an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. The etiology of Crohn’s disease remains unclear, but genetic, environmental, and immunological factors likely play a role in its development.

Signs and symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, rectal bleeding, and fever. The diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is made through a combination of medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests including blood work and stool analysis, imaging studies such as CT scans or colonoscopy with biopsy samples.

Treatment for Crohn’s disease aims at reducing inflammation and managing symptoms. Typical treatments include anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids or immunomosuppressant medications. In some cases where medical management fails to provide relief or complications arise such as intestinal obstruction or abscess formation surgical intervention may be necessary.
GallstonesGallstones, also known as cholelithiasis, are a common medical condition that afflicts the biliary (bile) system. Gallstones are small, hard crystalline deposits that form in the gallbladder, a small organ located below the liver. They can also form in the bile dicts. These stones can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, especially if they block the bile ducts or cause inflammation. These obstructions can cause significant discomfort and even lead to serious complications such as inflammation of the pancreas and jaundice.

The etiology of gallstones may involve a combination of genetic, metabolic, and environmental factors. There are several known risk factors including: being overweight or obese, having a diet high in fat and cholesterol, experiencing rapid weight loss, and having certain medical conditions such as diabetes or Crohn’s disease. Additionally, genetics may play a role in some cases. Approximately 10-15% of people in the United States have gallstones, with women being more prone to developing them than men. Symptoms of gallstones can vary from person to person but often include severe abdominal pain that comes on suddenly and lasts for hours.
Gastroesophageal Reflux DiseaseGastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic condition characterized by the backflow of stomach contents into the esophagus, leading to discomfort and potential complications. This disease affects the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle that normally acts as a barrier between the stomach and the esophagus. When this sphincter is weakened or dysfunctional, it allows gastric acid and other digestive enzymes, and occasionally bile to enter the esophagus, resulting in inflammation and irritation of the lining (esophagitis). Ulcers and strictures (narrowing) in the esophagus can also develop. If left untreated over time, these complications can increase the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.

The clinical manifestations of GERD can include heartburn, regurgitation, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), chest pain, hoarseness, and coughing. Treatment strategies for GERD typically involve lifestyle modifications such as weight loss and dietary changes, pharmacological intervention with proton pump inhibitors or H2 receptor antagonists, or surgical intervention in severe cases.
HepatitisHepatitis is a medical condition that involves inflammation of the liver It can have various causes such as viral infection, excessive alcohol consumption, autoimmune disorders, or exposure to toxic substances. The pathophysiology of hepatitis involves the disruption of normal liver functions due to damage or destruction of liver cells (hepatocytes), leading to impaired metabolism and detoxification processes. This may result in an accumulation of toxins in the body and other complications such as jaundice, ascites, or hepatic encephalopathy.

There are five main types of hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D and E. The clinical manifestations of hepatitis vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of the disease. Acute hepatitis typically presents with fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, and malaise, while chronic hepatitis may progress slowly and silently over time. In severe cases, patients may develop liver failure or cancer, which can be life-threatening.

Treatment options range from supportive measures such as rest and hydration for mild cases to antiviral medications or immunosuppressive therapies for viral or autoimmune-induced hepatitis. Lifestyle modifications such as abstinence from alcohol and avoidance of hepatotoxic drugs are also crucial in preventing disease progression.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. The specific cause of IBS is unknown, however research suggests it may be due to a combination of factors such as genetics, diet, stress levels, and gut bacteria. The functional changes (pathophysiology) of IBS is multifactorial and involves changes in gut motility, sensitivity of the viscera, abnormal immune function, autonomic nervous system activity, brain-gut axis communication, and psychological factors.

One of the most challenging aspects of IBS is its unpredictability. Symptoms can vary from person to person and day to day. This can make it difficult for individuals living with IBS to plan their daily activities or maintain a regular routine. Furthermore, the stigma around discussing digestive health issues like IBS adds an extra layer of difficulty in managing this condition. Despite these challenges, there are ways to manage and alleviate symptoms associated with IBS.

Respiratory system pathologies

Pathology of the respiratory system can be caused by a variety of factors such as smoking, pollution, genetics, cancer, or exposure to toxins. These factors can alter the normal anatomy and function of the lungs and airways, and can lead to a range of disorders, including infections, obstructive diseases, and cancers. Disorders of the respiratory system often result in signs and symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. Massage therapists should understand the core concepts of common respiratory pathologies to be able to recognize symptoms and modify treatment plan if needed.

PathologyOverview
AsthmaAsthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterized by airflow restriction and inflammation, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness. It is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide and is caused by a complex interaction between genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing, which can be triggered by various factors such as allergens, irritants, infections, or exercise.

The clinical presentation of asthma varies widely in its severity and frequency of attacks. The management of asthma involves the use of inhaled medications such as bronchodilators and corticosteroids to control inflammation and improve lung function. Patient education on trigger avoidance and self-management strategies also play an important role in improving outcomes for individuals with asthma.
BronchitisBronchitis is a respiratory illness characterized by inflammation of the bronchi, which causes the production of excessive mucus and coughing. It can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections, as well as exposure to irritants such as smoke, dust, chemicals or pollution. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic.

Acute bronchitis is a short-term illness that typically lasts less than three weeks and is commonly caused by an infection. Common signs and symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest discomfort, fatigue, fever, and difficulty breathing. While most cases of acute bronchitis will resolve on their own with rest and over-the-counter medications to manage symptoms, some people may require medical intervention if they develop complications such as pneumonia. In contrast, chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that persists for at least three months in two consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis is often associated with smoking and exposure to other lung irritants such as air pollution and occupational dust.
Common ColdThe common cold is a viral infection that affects millions of people every year. It is caused by different types of viruses and can lead to symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, fever and body aches. Although the common cold is not usually serious, it can be very uncomfortable and disrupt daily routines.

There are many ways to prevent and treat the common cold. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is one of the easiest ways to prevent it from spreading. Also avoid touching your face or mouth as much as possible, especially after being in contact with someone who has a cold. There are several over-the-counter medications that can help alleviate symptoms such as pain relievers for body aches and antipyretics (fever reducers).
Emphysema (COPD)Emphysema is a chronic progressive respiratory disease. It is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that occurs when the lung tissue becomes damaged and loses its elasticity, causing the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs to enlarge and become less efficient at exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. Emphysema leads to significant breathing difficulties and irreversible loss of lung function, and is often associated with other comorbidities such as chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and lung cancer.

The main cause of emphysema is smoking, but exposure to air pollution, dust, and chemicals can also contribute to the development of this pathology. Signs and symptoms typically develop slowly over time and include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, fatigue, and weight loss. There is currently no cure for emphysema but medications such as bronchodilators or corticosteroids can help manage symptoms. In severe cases, a patient may need supplemental oxygen.
InfluenzaInfluenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system. It spreads easily from person to person through tiny droplets produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and in some cases, it can even be fatal.

Symptoms of the flu typically include fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, headache, fatigue and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms usually last for about a week but can linger for up to two weeks in some cases. The best way to prevent getting infected with the flu is by avoiding close contact with people who are sick, washing your hands frequently, and keeping your body healthy and immune system strong.
PneumoniaPneumonia is a common respiratory infection that is caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi that infect the lungs and cause inflammation. The symptoms of pneumonia can be mild or severe, depending on the type of microorganism that causes it and the health of the individual.

The most common symptoms of pneumonia include coughing with mucus production, fever, shortness of breath, chest pain during breathing or coughing, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches. In severe cases, individuals may experience confusion or delirium due to low oxygen levels in their body. Pneumonia can affect anyone at any age but older adults over 65 years old are more prone to developing severe complications such as sepsis.

Urinary system pathologies

The primary function of the urinary system is to filter out waste products and excess fluids from blood. This system can lose its ability to function properly when affected by certain health conditions such as infections or renal disease. Pathologies of the urinary system may affect any of its structures, including the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, or urethra.

PathologyOverview
Kidney failureKidney failure, also known as renal failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is a medical condition that occurs when the kidneys are unable to perform their essential functions of filtering waste products from the blood and regulating fluid balance. This can result in the accumulation of harmful toxins in the body, leading to a range of serious health complications such as high blood pressure, anemia, bone disease, and cardiovascular disorders.

There are two main types of kidney failure: acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure is typically caused by a sudden injury or illness (e.g., severe dehydration or infection) that impairs kidney function. Chronic kidney failure, on the other hand, is a progressive condition that develops over time due to underlying health issues such as diabetes or hypertension. Symptoms of kidney failure can include fatigue, swelling in the legs or feet, difficulty breathing, and decreased urine output. If left untreated, kidney failure can be fatal. Treatment for kidney failure typically involves dialysis or kidney transplant surgery.
Kidney StonesKidney stones are a common pathology that affects the urinary system. These hard deposits composed of mineral salts that form in the kidneys can be excruciatingly painful when they pass through the urinary tract. Kidney stones range in size from tiny grains to larger pieces that resemble pebbles.

Symptoms of kidney stones vary depending on the size, location, and shape of the stone. But the most common symptoms include sharp pain in the back or lower abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Patients may experience hematuria (blood in urine), urinary tract infections (UTI), or even renal failure in severe cases.

Diagnosis of kidney stones typically requires a combination of imaging studies such as computed tomography (CT) scans or ultrasonography and laboratory tests. Treatment options depend on the size and location of the stone, and may include medications to help break down the stone, lithotripsy or surgery to remove it entirely. If left untreated, kidney stones can lead to complications such as infection or even damage to the kidney itself.
NephritisNephritis is a pathological condition of the kidneys that primarily affects the glomeruli, which are the structural and functional units that filter the blood. It is a serious inflammatory condition that is associated with damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys. This damage leads to impaired kidney function and potentially life-threatening complications.

Nephritis can have various causes including infections, autoimmune disorders, and certain medications. One of the most common symptoms of nephritis is blood in the urine (hematuria). Other signs and symptoms may include swelling of the legs or feet (edema), high blood pressure, fatigue, anemia, nausea and vomiting, and decreased urine output.

Treatment for nephritis involves addressing the underlying cause. In some cases, medications such as corticosteroids may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation in the kidneys. In severe cases where kidney function is severely compromised, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary. Nephritis can progress to chronic kidney disease or end-stage renal failure if left untreated or poorly managed.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common medical condition that affects a significant proportion of the population, especially women due to a shorter urethra. It is an infection that occurs in any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Bacterial species such as E. coli are often responsible for causing UTIs. Symptoms of UTI include dysuria (painful urination), urgency, frequent urge to urinate but passing only small amounts of urine, cloudy or strong-smelling urine, pelvic pain, and fever.

Diagnosis of UTI is typically based on clinical presentation and urinalysis. However, recurrent UTIs may require additional investigations such as imaging studies or additional testing. Treatment usually involves the use of antibiotics targeting the identified bacterial species. Prevention is key in avoiding recurrent infections. If left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and cause serious complications such as kidney damage or sepsis.

Common types of cancer

There are many different types of cancer. Each type of cancer affects different structures of the body and requires specific treatment approaches. It is good for massage therapists to be familiar with common types of cancer, and how these pathologies can affect a client’s massage treatment plan. Clients with a medical diagnosis of cancer may require specific accommodations or modifications to their massage treatment.

Oncology massage is a specialized type of massage therapy that is designed to alleviate the symptoms and side effects associated with cancer and its treatments. This type of massage is performed by therapists who have received specific training in working with cancer patients, including understanding the potential complications that may arise during treatment. It has been shown to be effective in helping patients manage pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and other stress-related symptoms.

During an oncology massage session, the therapist will work closely with the patient to customize their treatment plan based on their individual needs and medical history. Techniques used in this type of massage are gentle and non-invasive, making it safe for even those undergoing intensive chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Additionally, oncology massage can help improve circulation, promote lymphatic drainage, and boost immune function, all of which can be especially beneficial for cancer patients who are dealing with compromised health.

PathologyOverview
Breast cancerBreast cancer is a type of cancer that is characterized by abnormal growth of cells in the breast tissue, typically forming a lump or mass that can be detected through various diagnostic techniques such as mammography or ultrasound. It is one of the most common types of cancers affecting millions of women worldwide. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but is more common in women.

The cause of breast cancer remains unclear, but it is believed to be a result of genetic mutations and environmental factors such as age, gender, obesity, lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption, and exposure to ionizing radiation. Breast cancer can be classified into several subtypes based on the characteristics of the tumor cells and their responsiveness to hormone therapy. The most common types are invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), which account for approximately 80% and 10% of all breast cancers respectively. Invasive ductal carcinoma begins in the milk ducts and has the ability to spread to other parts of the body while invasive lobular carcinoma develops in the milk-producing glands called lobules. Early detection plays a vital role in treating breast cancer as it increases survival rates significantly.
Lung cancerLung cancer is a common pathology and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. This disease is caused by uncontrolled growth of malignant cells within the lung tissue. These abnormal cells grow out of control in one or both lungs, forming tumors that interfere with breathing.

There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCLC accounts for about 85% of all cases, while SCLC makes up the other 15%. One of the biggest risk factors for developing lung cancer is chronic exposure to carcinogenic substances like tobacco smoke. In fact, smokers are at least 15 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers.
Skin cancerSkin cancer is a malignancy that arises from the uncontrolled growth and proliferation of abnormal cells within the skin’s layers. It results from genetic mutations in cells responsible for producing keratinocytes, melanocytes, or other skin cells. Risk factors for developing skin cancer include overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight or tanning beds, fair skin complexion, family history of skin cancer, immunosuppression therapy, and exposure to environmental toxins.

Skin cancer can be classified into three major types: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and usually appears as a small, shiny bump or nodule on the skin. BCCs are slow-growing tumors that mostly affect the epidermis’ basal layer and are less likely to metastasize. Squamous cell carcinomas tend to be more aggressive than basal cell carcinomas and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. SCCs arise from the more superficial layers of the skin and possess a higher potential for local invasion and distant spread.

Melanoma is less common than basal or squamous cell cancers but is more dangerous because it has a higher tendency to spread quickly (metastisize) to other parts of the body. Melanomas originate from melanocytes, which are pigment-producing cells located in the epidermis’ basal layer. They vary in colors, sizes, shapes, and surface characteristics.
LeukemiaLeukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. More specifically, leukemia is a malignant neoplasm of hematopoietic stem cells that leads to uncontrolled proliferation and impaired differentiation of white blood cells (leukocytes). These cells interfere with the production of healthy blood cells, leading to anemia, bleeding disorders, and infections.

The causes of leukemia are not fully understood, but researchers believe genetic mutations in the bone marrow are a primary factor. Several risk factors have been identified. These include exposure to high levels of radiation or chemicals such as benzene, genetic predisposition, and certain viral infections like human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV-1) or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the type and stage of the disease, but they may include fatigue, weakness, fever, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, bruising easily and frequent infections.

Treatment for leukemia depends on several factors including age, which type of leukemia, stage of disease, and overall health status. Treatment modalities include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy. Some patients experience relapse or refractory disease.
LymphomaLymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is responsible for fighting infections and diseases in the body. It is a malignant neoplasm of the lymphatic system that arises from the proliferation of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which are distinguished by their cellular characteristics and clinical features.

While the etiology of lymphoma remains unknown, it has been linked to genetic mutations, viral infections, exposure to environmental toxins, and immunodeficiency states. Signs and symptoms of lymphoma include swollen lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and organ dysfunction. Diagnosis usually involves a combination of physical exams, blood tests and imaging studies such as x-rays or CT scans. A biopsy may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment options for lymphomas depend on several factors including type and stage of the disease as well as patient age and overall health. Treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or stem cell transplantation. Prognosis remains variable with some patients achieving long-term remission while others experience relapse or refractory disease.

Pathology resources for massage therapists & students

Pathology textbooks

A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology

A Massage Therapists Guide to Pathology by Ruth Werner is a comprehensive textbook that reviews over 500 conditions that practicing therapists need to be familiar with. This useful reference is also appropriate for massage teachers and students.

Mosby’s Pathology for Massage Professionals

This pathology textbook covers more than 300 pathologies and shows how to customize massage treatment plans to accommodate various conditions. Mosbys Pathology for Massage Professionals is by Susan Salvo. There are several editions available on Amazon.

Other Pathology Books for Massage Therapists:

  • The Massage Therapist’s Pocketbook of Pathology
  • Recognizing health and Illness: Pathology for Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers
  • Pathology A to Z: A Handbook for Massage Therapists

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