Massage as a form of manual therapy can relax and sedate the body; it can also be an active stimulant. As a means of supporting and nurturing the body, massage can fortify the body’s immune system to heal many and at minimum, manage all diseases. Touch is a powerful tool. As parents, we touch and embrace our children to comfort their pain. As therapist we touch and support patients to comfort their pain.
Massage Therapy facilitate the connection between the body and mind. In our modern, the human mind is very much externalized by the bombardment of outside stimuli. Connecting with our inner being is essential to developing better health, wellness and fitness.
Most people seeking therapy are dealing with pain of some sort; pain that is often the result of the wears and tears in life: physical, emotional, and chemical impact. Our genetics dispose some of us to experience more pain than others for a variety of reasons. But the impact of wear and tear can be moderated by our acquired knowledge and skills to cope.
Much of our pain is the result of our habits; our prolong static postures, our repetitive movement, our anxieties, fears and apprehensions. Severity of pain can also be affected by diet.
Our muscles are like sponges. They have many capillaries, small vessels like pores, that allow for effective blood flow. Tension in muscles cause compression and occlusion to circulation. Tension may also impact nerves and other organs. Poor circulation will affect tissue health and cause pain. Image holding a fist for hours on end or being stuck under a heavy object; you will experience fatigue and eventual burning pain. The business of life heightens our nervous activation so much that many of us grind our teeth at night. The evidence is in the worn enamel. Many of us may clench our entire body while sleeping; the evidence is in morning stiffness and pain. The solution is simple, learn to meditate and relax; simple but not easy.
Tissue damage results in the release of chemicals that alert the body of change. Pain is subject to the interpretation of the experience of such change. Fear and a lack of knowledge may compound a negative experience and give rise to a greater sense of pain. Elements of our diet that present a higher level of oxidants (harmful chemicals) in our blood and those that hinder our blood flow can give rise to a greater experience of pain.
The fundamental goal of massage therapy is to facilitate and improve circulation: mechanically on the skins surface and in the depths of the tissue by stretching the connective tissue that is continuous throughout the body, and by relaxing the nervous system.
If tension is primarily from tense habits and anxiety, the approach in massage is to help identify and relax areas of tension as well as to sedate the body as a whole.
If tension is from vigorous and repetitive activation, as in sports or labour, there will likely be associated tissue thickening with potential scaring and inflammation. Imagine rubbing you hands together all day long. If you work hard with your hands you will see the evidence of callouses and potential blisters and tears. Vigorous and intense muscle activity can potentiate the same under the skin between tissue structures. Such condition can make massage very uncomfortable but necessary. Deep tissue massage at a tolerable intensity in such case can help dissociate adhesions. The goals is to encourage dissociation at the upper limits of the clients tolerance.
It is not ideal to elicit resistance and tension from the client. This will be counter productive and fail in the intent to relax. There is the exception of working with those frequenting intense and physically destructive activities; those with addictive, aggressive, intense personalities … typically the competitive athlete. For athletes, there is a low threshold to push them beyond their tolerance for pain; they do it all the time in training and competition. But it is important to stay within their ability to manage this pain. The physical demands to an athlete’s body is often so intense that are often widespread adhesions and inflammation. To help with efficient and rapid recovery, the intent is demolish the restrictions, rapidly stimulate circulation and promote restructuring with hot/cold contrasting. Athletes often also have better than average discipline to embark on recovery measures like regular and frequent self massage, rolling and stretching.
If tension is from over thinking, prolong habits in static postures, anxiousness or emotional stress, it is essential for the therapeutic approach to be gentle, comforting, supportive and encouraging. Craniosacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation and Swedish/relaxation massage are the ideal approaches.