Massage for Special Needs Populations

In our current health care climate, wheelchair massagemassage therapy is quickly taking on an expanded role as a viable and evidence based treatment for a variety of conditions. A growing body of research is showing that massage has favorable outcomes ranging from enhancing the immune function in preterm infants,¹ to decreasing blood pressure and improving stability in older persons.² Of particular interest to our special needs populations, massage has also been found to be helpful in decreasing a variety of symptoms in various disabilities. Many disabilities have similar symptoms such as spastic or rigid muscles, uncoordinated movements, constipation or other digestive issues, loss of balance or even the inability to walk which can contribute to muscle atrophy or soreness.

Almost everyone who gets a massage can attest that they have a decrease in pain and stiffness as well as a general improvement in mood. While the mechanisms of massage are still being debated, it is widely agreed upon that massage can decrease pain, lower stress levels, increase range of motion, and lower inflammation. Other benefits of massage can help with the behavioral symptoms of those with disabilities such as ADHD, ASD, or any other condition that affects mental or intellectual development. For example, in one small study, standardized tests showed a decrease in autistic behaviors and increase in language development, as well as improvement in motor skills, sensory function and general health in all of the children who received a regular massage.³

It is important to find a massage therapist who has had additional training and experience working with our special needs population since there are additional considerations and precautions needed to safely and effectively provide the best care. In addition to an initial “expectation conversation” and a thorough medical history, a well rounded session would include a social and emotional background inquiry and discussions on informed consent. In cases of working with individuals with disabilities, it is important that the client understands what is happening and has the ability to provide the therapist feedback even if they are non-verbal and the guardian gave the initial consent. Many times the guardian can assist in this communication building process but the therapist must always look for and respond to comfort levels of the client.

Accessibility is a factor to consider when choosing your massage therapist. Some clients prefer to stay in their wheelchairs, while other clients prefer to be transferred to a massage table or hospital bed. While most clinics will have wheelchair accessible entrances and bathrooms, sometimes it is more ideal for the massage therapist to make an out-call visit to a home, facility, or hospital. Discussing these options with a potential massage therapist prior to making an appointment can help provide the best service in the most comfortable environment possible based on the individual need of the client.

  1. Ang J, Lua J, Mathur A, et al. A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Massage Therapy on the Immune System of Preterm Infants. Pediatrics. 2012; 130(6):e1549-58.
  2. Sefton JM, Yarar C, Berry JW, et al. Six weeks of massage therapy produces changes in balance, neurological and cardiovascular measures in older persons. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.2012; 5(3):28-40.
  3. L. M. T. Silva and A. Cignolini, “A medical Qigong methodology for early intervention in autism spectrum disorder: a case series,” The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 315–327, 2005.


Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT is a board certified and licensed massage therapist with additional certifications in pediatrics/special needs populations. To book an appointment, please visit:

Hope: An amazing new blood test, clinical massage therapy, and overcoming barriers.

lab techHope: An amazing new blood test, clinical massage therapy, and overcoming barriers.

Most people in a health and wellness field have the innate desire to help people. If there was a real way to develop super human abilities like X-Ray vision or instant healing powers, the demand for that would be overwhelming. As much as anyone would love to think that this is humanly possible on a super-human level, the reality of it is, it simply isn’t.  If it was, we wouldn’t have sick people. Things like cancer would be a thing of the past.

I know some of you reading this may think, well, there are so many unexplained phenomenon that I have witnessed or been a subject of.  While I truly believe there is so much we have yet to fully explore and expand on, I also believe that if we take up a profession that puts people’s lives in our hands, we have an immense responsibility to stay grounded in reality drawing on everything we have at that moment in time. Since we don’t have X-ray vision, or instant healing powers, sometimes, we need to rely on advances in medicine to look inside the body, give us a better picture of what is happening, and take these assessments to decide which tools have the best chance of allowing the body to heal.  Unfortunately, even that falls short at times but we must keep pursuing all available options.

Just recently I discovered that there is a new blood test being developed that will detect eight different types of cancers which were previously hard to detect. That is very promising; but what does this have to do with massage therapy? Massage therapists MUST seek out the advice and guidance from their client’s doctor, chiropractor, or specialist etc. for assessments that lead away from a massage therapist’s scope of practice.  Clinical assessments are made based on the information that we are presented with coupled with the best tools that we have available to us at any given time. Sometimes things are cut and dry; other times they aren’t; and a bigger clinical picture is needed. Even for a massage therapist.

Both the people who are seeking care, and the health or wellness practitioners providing that care must be willing to seek out answers from both sides of the fence and use their best judgement in choosing what best serves the seeker of care.   It would be ideal if more massage therapists, and other bodywork professions knew how to reduce the barriers preventing their clients from getting quality medical care.  It would also be ideal if medical providers, after ruling out life threatening pathologies, referred their patients to clinical massage therapists more as the first line of defense in musculoskeletal issues.

There are so many barriers to successful and ideal clinical outcomes: bureaucracy, politics, patient beliefs, biases, and justified apprehension. We have to build more bridges, and heal the barriers that prevent us all from becoming our highest potential. We can’t force someone to seek medical care, but there is a time and place for it.  With the right knowledge and advice, we can help empower others to make the best choices for their own health care.

With all that said, prevention is still one of the most powerful tools. Wellness care is never a futile effort. There are limitations to everything and some things are just outside of our control. We must stay vigilant in our pursuits to work collaboratively and do our best to stay in our own lanes. Saying it again for good measure: there is a time and place for everything.

This new blood test being developed was unfortunately too late for some. Maybe it will be right on time for someone else. The time to heal is now though-together we stand a much better chance. If you are a wellness provider, don’t waiver in your advocacy for science and evidence based practices. If you are a medical provider, don’t dismiss things that have yet to be explained. As a patient/client, do your homework and find a balance.

We all wish for the best possible clinical outcomes, and we all have a responsibility to find them. Kudos to John Hopkins for this amazing blood test. I hope more people become aware of it, and have access to it very soon.

Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT

*This article is for informational purposes only. The information contained in this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

*This blog was written on a free website platform which is not ad-free. The ads are not associated with the authors in any way.

Snowed In? 5 Fun and Healthy Ideas.


Snowed in by the Blizzard of 2017? Here are some fun and healthy ideas to keep things fun and healthy while we make it through this historic NEPA storm!

1. Create a meal plan for next week. Everyone always says there is no time to plan. Well, Stella just gave us a few extra days to dig deep. Put down the shovel for a bit, go online and start getting ideas for meals. For inspiration, you can try Minimalist Baker, Food Hero,  or our very own local nutrition expert, Laurie Waskovich. Then you can start making a grocery list and compare prices to see who is going to give you the best deal this week. Having a plan saves you time and money, and who doesn’t love that?

2. Meditate! There are vast resources online. I personally love Kelly Howell and her Brain Sync audios. Mindfulness meditation practice is another one of my favorites. There is no time like the present to learn a new technique like mindfulness and with all the free tutorials on You Tube, there is nothing holding you back!

3. Take a luxurious bath. Epsom salts, lavender, candles. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? As long as your doctor hasn’t told you to not take a bath or you are allergic to lavender, soak it up! If you were out shoveling, or stressed out thinking about shoveling, this is the perfect activity for YOU. Heck, throw on those awesome meditation audios you just found and float away. 🙂

4. Catch up with family and friends you haven’t seen in a while. Everyone is only a phone call away, and many of us have things like Skype, or other video chat software on our phones or computers. Stella just gave us a few days to finally learn how to do that. Fun!

5. Knock off at least one thing on that elusive to do list. You know, those project ideas that have you keeping things in buckets just shy of getting you on an episode of Hoarders. Pull out that bucket of material, or all that extra scrap book paper, and make something (especially fun if you have kids). Get those pictures in frames, hang that shelf you always wanted to make. You get the idea. You will feel so accomplished that you will be wishing for another snow day in no time.

They are just a few ideas of what you can do instead of looking out the window, waiting for the plow.

When it does come, and you start venturing out today to find your car, or shovel for what feels like the 20th time in two days, please be careful and do not over do it. Your muscles will thank you later. However, if your muscles need a good massage therapist with over twelve years of clinical massage therapy experience after this storm, don’t hesitate to call Green Ridge Om & Wellness, LLC and I will be happy to help. Stay happy and healthy friends!

Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT

Stress Less for the Holidays

This is the original article written for Scranton Chamber’s guest blog prior to their edits.

Stress less for the holidays. Seems like a simple statement by itself. Holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of merriment and eggnog with friends and family, right? If you are the fortunate one that has a big, warm family that  lives close by, who doesn’t care about the condition of your house, or doesn’t expect a perfectly executed Pinterest dish on your table, or theirs, this article is not for you. For the rest of us who put entirely way too much pressure on ourselves to have the “perfect” holiday, here are a few tips that can have you humming the tunes of ‘Jingle Bells’ in no time.

Take time for yourself this holiday season. We think tirelessly about what to buy, what to make, what to do for our family to bring them joy. While that seems noble enough, if you are forcing everyone in ugly sweaters for their own good, you might be missing the point. If you cut away all the things on your holiday to-do-list that no-one really cares about, you have plenty of time to make time for yourself. You can’t bring anyone joy if you are tangled up in holiday lights, drenched in peppermint hot chocolate, sitting on e-bay bidding your mortgage payment away on a Hatchimal. Go get a massage, or take that yoga class you always wanted to try. Bring your family a smile this holiday season. They don’t really like fruitcake anyway.

Make new traditions, or just let go of unrealistic expectations. Sometimes families change. We have loss, we have new additions, we don’t have the finances we used to, or we just don’t feel like being a superhero this year. All of this is ok. There is no almighty holiday rule in life that we have to do everything exactly the same, every year. For example, children of divorced parents may now be spending holidays in separate homes. Who says that your holiday has to be on a specific day? Celebrate the day before, or the day after the same way you do when the holiday falls on your custody year. Twice the fun!  Less stress. Problem solved. If you are grieving about a recent (or not-so-recent) loss, reach out to a supportive person in your life, or a professional mental health provider.

If you are finding yourself with fewer finances this year, this is a perfect opportunity to focus on what is really important. Your friends really don’t want that dollar store mug filled with chocolate. Plan a trip with them in the not-so-distant future instead.  Get creative, and scale down. Who says your house has to look like the Grizwold’s for you to not be a failure?  If you insist on decorating, there are thousands of ideas on the internet for a very low budget, that doesn’t involve checking 25,000 bulbs. Making new traditions are a great way to focus on what is important to you now, and can alleviate stress by doing something you actually enjoy.

Focus on your blessings. The perfect way to really appreciate what we really have is by helping those less fortunate than us. Volunteer at a local charity over the holiday. Help out a local food or toy drive. Go caroling at a nursing home, or even write a few holiday cards to soldiers overseas. Science shows that helping others is clinically shown to lower stress. It just feels good to know that you can make a difference in someone else’s life. Spreading joy is contagious and brings peace to you and the person on the receiving end.  You can’t give joy unless you have it to give. Stress less this holiday season, and share a little love instead.

Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT

Green Ridge Om & Wellness, LLC


Five Reasons to Get a Massage in the Summer

1. You are demanding more from your body!

Swimming, camping, hiking, running the kids around to fourteen different summer activities, bike rides, sports. You can treat and/or prevent all these sports related injuries.

2. Yard work!

I think this one speaks for itself. Unless you have landscapers, you most definitely need a massage.

3. Summer can be stressful for parents!

Kids are out of school, and yes, this is a blessing. However, some parents have a hard time balancing work while keeping their kids in enriching activities. Some fortunate parents get to stay home with their children, but let’s face it, it is a big adjustment. Make time for YOU! Your kids will benefit from a stress free parent.

4. Keep up your good habits!

New Year’s resolutions are great, and we all kick up our wellness games in the winter. Don’t let that go in the summer, it gets that much harder to start back up once the fall rolls around.

5. You are worth it!

Seriously, you are.

Book your massage online at: Green Ridge Om & Wellness, LLC

Written by Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT with YOU in mind.

*This article is for informational purposes only. The information contained in this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

No pain. No gain? Not really.

So this week’s massage therapy topic is on how much pressure is really needed to provide results. Many people shy away from “deep tissue” work because they either had a very bad experience, or they have the impression that “deep tissue” is the same as asking for “deep pressure.”  To be fair, some people really love sensory seeking activities, and their massage should be no different.  However, what is typically necessary to provide effective treatments to your “deeper tissues” is not marked by how much pressure is applied.

p bride quote

There has been, and continues to be, quite the debate in our field about the anatomy of a trigger point, aka a “knot” in our muscles. Through wonderful, continuing research, we are now learning that we are still learning.  Some of the theories include: nerve inflammation, fascial densification and central sensitization.  In fact, I just recently learned that the old theory of ‘lactic acid and calcium ion build-up’ is being thrown out the window entirely. That old theory had massage therapists attempting to apply a deep mechanical pressure on the trigger point to break up the “metabolic waste.” Since we now have a completely different view of the pathology of a myofascial trigger point, we are favoring evidence based techniques that take a more gentle approach.

I have never been a fan of the motto “no pain, no gain” when it refers to massage or bodywork, and my approach has always been to find the least invasive way to treat pain. Sometimes, I feel deep pressure is warranted, however, massage should never leave bruises, or result in days of pain. If this happens to you, please inform your massage therapist of what you experienced.  To avoid this from happening, please keep an open dialog with your massage therapist about the level of pressure you are experiencing during your massage.  Most massage therapists will ask you how the pressure is, encourage you to be honest, and adjust the pressure accordingly. It is a common misconception that if it hurts, it is working. In my ten plus years of experience, I find that the opposite is true.

Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT

*This article is for informational purposes only. The information contained in this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

What type of massage is right for me?


This is a common question that serious clients ask. At GROW, we really love when people are involved in the decision process. Our philosophy is that each person is a unique and dynamic individual, with unique and dynamic needs.  With this perspective, we feel that wellness services cannot be offered as a one-size-fits-all method.  So what type of massage is right for you?

First things first. Make sure you are receiving services from a LICENSED professional. Currently, there are laws that govern massage therapy in 46 states. Pennsylvania became a licensed state in 2008. That means it is illegal to practice massage without a license. Many massage therapists, including myself, fought hard for our practice to become a licensed, and respected profession. Higher educational standard have since been required, and an emphasis on continuing education, including advanced modalities, ethics, and research have been integrated into obtaining, and renewing a massage license. You can check to see if someone is licensed to practice massage on the state board of massage therapy’s website by entering their name, and state. If they are not listed, they are not licensed.

Choosing a licensed massage therapist is a basic requirement to ensure you are receiving a professional massage. Some massage therapists have voluntarily taken their practice a step further and obtained Board Certification. These individuals have committed themselves to a higher standard by obtaining the highest credential in our profession today.  You can search for a board certified massage therapist in your area HERE by entering your city and/or state.

With the basics aside, there are still many options to consider when choosing the massage that is right for you.  Are you just looking to relax? Are you injured, or experiencing chronic pain? Are you an athlete looking to step up your game? Maybe you are pregnant, have lymphatic issues, recovering from cancer, or you are looking to help your child with special needs. Each of these situations would require a completely different type of massage, and more importantly, a massage therapist who specializes in that type of modality.

If you are just looking to relax, any licensed massage therapist will do. You will want to look for massages with names like: Swedish, Relaxation, Reiki-Infused Massage, Aromatherapy Massage, etc. The trick to maximizing your experience, is finding a place that best supports your ability to deeply relax. Try different places like spas, clinics, or wellness centers, and see which one provides you the most enriching experience. If that one becomes stale, try another. A professional will never take it personal that you are doing what is in your own best interest.  On that topic, keep an open and honest dialogue with your licensed massage therapist (LMT). An LMT should always be receptive to your needs. Topics like pressure being used, temperature of the room, music choices, etc, are always at your discretion. This is YOUR massage. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up.

For people with an injury, or chronic pain, choose a massage therapist that continues to take advanced continuing education training, and receives additional certifications after becoming licensed. An LMT who does this is committed to learning the most up to date, evidence based techniques in the field.  Certifications like medical massage, myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy (NMT), etc. are a few common specializations. The more practice a therapist has with treating specific conditions, the better he/she will be as well. So be empowered to ask your massage therapists how often he/she has worked on your particular issue, and what was the success rate. An ethical massage therapist will be completely upfront with you, and refer you to another professional if they feel your specific condition is outside their scope of practice or particular expertise.

If you are in a special population such as pregnant, athlete, pediatric, oncology, find a massage therapist that has made a commitment to specializing in that particular field. There are advanced certifications for Sports Massage, Pregnancy Massage, Pediatric Massage, Oncology Massage, Lymphatic Drainage, etc. and you will find that someone who became certified, and specializes in a specific area of expertise is FAR more qualified than someone who only learned the basics in massage school. Again, the more commitment and experience someone has with a particular population, the better your massage will be.  Don’t be afraid to ask  about their training when shopping around for a good massage therapist that best fits your needs.

Advances in the field of massage therapy through research, and higher standards of education, are giving massage a great reputation throughout the medical community.  The benefits of massage go beyond feelings of relaxation, and wellness. As one example, The American College of Physicians and The American Pain Society now include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain, according to guidelines published in 2007. The more you look at the research, the more you see that getting a massage is beneficial for EVERY body.  Through education, and empowerment you can then choose what type of massage is best for you.

Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT

Kristin Martelli, LMT, BCTMB, CPMT specializes in medical massage, pediatric massage therapy,  and integrated therapeutic massage (a combination of myofascial release, NMT, and when appropriate, energy work). Kristin has also been doing energy work for over 20 years and finds that it is a great addition to a relaxation massage. Read her full BIO on GROW’s website.