Thursday, October 4, 2012

Massage Therapy and Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy’s Iron Man

By Leslie Dees, LMT
Editor’s Note: Leslie Dees is a massage therapist based in Houston, TX. She is currently studying under Margo Benge and was eager to share this story about the healing power of massage therapy for a young man with cerebral palsy.

Iron Man

Twenty-four year old Philip (aka Iron Man) has a warmth and kindness that will melt your heart and a smile that will immediately put you at ease. His story has many unfortunate obstacles. When he was 9 years old, Iron Man broke his leg. The leg never healed properly, and he has undergone two surgeries to place metal bars in his back to help him sit. The bars cause him constant pain and discomfort and prevent him from straightening his back. In the past, he has had physical therapy, braces, water therapy (his favorite), and tried many  other therapies with little to no improvement. In spite of all of this, this young man’s will and determination keep him strong.

A Compassionate Therapist

Enter the heroine. Margo Benge is a licensed massage therapist with much compassion and knowledge in various massage techniques. She has been helping Iron Man overcome his physical challenges for a little over a year. When he first came to her, his muscles were so tight that his femur appeared to be completely out of the socket. Where the muscles are visible in most people’s legs, his looked more like tendons. His speech was difficult to understand and initially Margo had to have his mother “translate.” Iron Man’s hands were also tight with very little flexibility. He couldn’t place one of his feet flat on the ground and when laying on the table, he had a fear of falling off.
Margo’s experience with Philip has allowed her to perfect her special massage techniques. She uses what she perceives as reflexes in the nerves to lengthen the muscles. While the treatment is rough and demanding on Iron Man at times, he knows that the pain is temporary and the outcome and benefits far outweigh the tough times.

A Winning Combination

Iron Man can now tap both feet flat on the ground. His hands and wrists move more freely and are flexible. He is able to fully extend his right arm and mostly extend his right leg. He even showed me how he now has no fear of lying on the table and was able to talk and communicate with me quite well. His leg muscles are more defined and are looser and movable in his right calf. Iron Man Philip told me, “I wish that when I was younger, I had found Margo before all my surgeries. I can now more easily move myself out of my chair to my bed and back to my chair to help my mom.”
Margo describes Iron Man as “awesome”and says he is the lead teacher. Iron Man has a goal to walk again and be able to get in and out of the bath by himself. Margo is working with someone to design a brace that will help him and others reach this goal. Together, they make a great team. The changes in a little more than a year are phenomenal, showing that the potential for massage impacting cerebral palsy deserves to be taught and studied.
About six months into her work with Philip, Margo added another technique based on some research she had been doing with deeper lymphatic. Philip began gaining muscle mass at a much faster rate, and the work to restore his range of motion accelerated.
At the end of the sessions, he and Margo high-five each other. The amount of strength and resilience Philip invests is a core reason for the progress.  Margo states like a proud mother, “Philip is a constant joy. I believe that the work we are doing will one day be recognized as the most positive modality for cerebral palsy. “
For more information about Margo’s massage therapy techniques, contact her at

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