Massage is a healing art. If you develop good hand skills you will become a competent massage practitioner; if you study hard and really think about what you are doing, you will become a massage therapist; if you add to this a loving and open heart, you will become a healer. Without Love there can be no Healing.
Deborah and I started our careers as Massage Therapists and even though I rarely do a full, stand alone, massage treatment these days, the art of massage will always be fundamental to my perspective.
Massage comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There are a wide variety of massage categories, with new fancy variations being made up on a daily basis. Here’s a brief guide to some of the more common ones:
Direct pressure on the sore bits, with thumbs or palms or finger tips. Acupressure is used to reduce spasms and stagnation in the soft tissues. Like other TCM practices, acupressure is practised in the context of the full range of Oriental Medicine theories and perspectives
DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
As it sounds, this style of massage focuses on the deeper layers of soft tissue. The idea is to soften the deep muscle structures and to break up adhesions in the layers of connective tissue. The technique makes extensive use of a deep, slow, concentrated, sliding pressure with the tips of the thumbs or fingers and sometimes the knuckles or palms. Naturally, if the therapist is skilful they will take care to thoroughly warm the tissues before applying heavy pressure and will remain sensitive to the pain threshold of the patient.
The term Deep Tissue Massage is virtually interchangeable with others such as Connective Tissue Massage, Myo-Fascial Release, Myotherapy and Neuromuscular Technique.
This is the diametric opposite to relaxation massage. Rather than sedating the nerves you would stimulate them with fast stroking, hard rubbing, friction and percussion. The massage would of necessity be much shorter and the effect is to leave the patient with glowing skin and feeling very much awake.
The first thing to say about Lymphatic Drainage Massage is it is impossible to massage without moving Lymph fluid through the tissues. All styles of massage do this to some extent. Having said that, there are several styles of massage that give this process a greater emphasis. In general the massage strokes are slower and involve lots of broad handed squeezing of the muscle tissues. Emphasis is given to squeezing lymph fluid from the extremities to the torso, with extra focus placed on the abdomen and chest where there is a high concentration of lymph nodes. Incidentally, Deborah does a fabulous Lymphatic Drainage massage … do yourself a favour one day!
There are many ways of doing this, but if your therapist is just stroking your skin you might be missing out. Personally, I prefer a thorough wringing out of the muscles at a steady pace.
This is the easiest style to apply in terms of physical effort, yet it requires a particular skill and concentration. It involves lots of long, slow stroking and soothing kneading. Any friction, percussion, pressing or any hard applications would be avoided. The entire approach is with broad hand surface rather than thumbs or fingertips.
The emphasis is on soothing the nerves of the skin and gently releasing muscular tension, more as a result of encouragement than through insistence. This is best achieved with a slow and consistent rhythm which has an almost hypnotic effect. It is also extremely useful to spend extra time on the face, forehead and scalp. Ideally the patient should end up falling asleep.
REMEDIAL AND THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE
If you look up your dictionary you’ll find that both these terms are interchangeable; though for some reason, within the professional massage industry, the term Remedial has come to be associated with a greater level of skill.
Chronic tension, poor posture and injuries can all leave hard areas of tissue which cause pain, impede the proper function of the nerves, restrict the flow of blood and lymph and inhibit the mobility of the joints. The idea of Remedial or Therapeutic Massage is a more focused, more localised treatment, rather than a general, full body approach. A remedial massage is likely to be more intense or at least more concentrated on a specific area of dysfunction. Naturally, if the therapist is skilful they will take care to thoroughly warm the tissues before applying heavy pressure and will remain sensitive to the pain threshold of the patient.
The most frequent application of therapeutic massage is to the back; the major portion of a treatment is often focused there. This is the area where the spinal nerves radiate out from the spinal column to innervate the corresponding internal organs; spasms in the spinal muscles are very often the source of chronic pain throughout the torso and limbs.