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Jul 28, 2023

A potential client—we don’t know how old, or how healthy—has sickle cell disease (SCD). There’s very limited information about safe massage therapy in this context. What’s an MT to do?

One option is to reach out to an expert and hope you’ll get a quick but thorough response—if you get one at all. Another option is to check your bookshelf: you might be pleasantly surprised. (And if you don’t own a pathology book, maybe it’s time to remedy that situation—see some options listed below.)

SCD is a complicated and serious condition with lots of decision points for massage therapy: What are the complications, how is the person treating it, and what is their risk for infection?

Listen on for a short primer on faulty hemoglobin, collapsing red blood cells, and implications for bodywork.





Books of Discovery:  



Host Bio:        


Ruth Werner is a former massage therapist, a writer, and an NCBTMB-approved continuing education provider. She wrote A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology, now in its seventh edition, which is used in massage schools worldwide. Werner is also a long-time Massage & Bodywork columnist, most notably of the Pathology Perspectives column. Werner is also ABMP’s partner on Pocket Pathology, a web-based app and quick reference program that puts key information for nearly 200 common pathologies at your fingertips. Werner’s books are available at And more information about her is available at   



Recent Articles by Ruth:       


“Working with Invisible Pain,” Massage & Bodywork magazine, November/December 2022, page 36,


“Unpacking the Long Haul,” Massage & Bodywork magazine, January/February 2022, page 35,

“Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy and Massage Therapy,” Massage & Bodywork magazine, September/October 2021, page 33,


“Pharmacology Basics for Massage Therapists,” Massage & Bodywork magazine, July/August 2021, page 32,    






Pocket Pathology:




Cowen, V. Pathophysiology for Massage Therapists p. 183-184


Salvo, S. Mosby’s Pathology for Massage Therapists p. 231-232


Walton, T. Medical Conditions and Massage Therapy p. 236-237


Werner, R. A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology p. 278-279