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Massage Techniques

There are over a hundred types of massage therapies found all over the world.  Many are variations of a particular approach that is developed with its own “brand name.”  Most of these techniques can be grouped into 5 categories namely:  Swedish massage, Therapeutic massage, Oriental massage, Sports massage, and other special forms of massage. Below are the definitions of the more common techniques that some or all of the therapists in the office offer.

Massage & Massage Therapy Basics

Massage or massage therapy are systems of structured palpation or movement of the soft tissue of the body. The massage system may include, but is not limited to, such techniques as, stroking, kneading, gliding, percussion, friction, vibration, compression, passive or active stretching within the normal anatomical range of movement; effleurage (either firm or light soothing, stroking movement, without dragging the skin, using either padded parts of fingertips or palms); petrissage (lifting or picking up muscles and rolling the folds of skin); or tapotement (striking with the side of the hand, usually with partly flexed fingers, rhythmic movements with fingers or short rapid movements of sides of the hand). These techniques may be applied with or without the aid of lubricants, salt or herbal preparations, hydromassage, thermal massage or a massage device that mimics or enhances the actions possible by human hands. The purpose of the practice of massage is to enhance the general health and well-being of the recipient. Massage does not include the diagnosis of a specific pathology, the prescription of drugs or controlled substances, spinal manipulation or those acts of physical therapy that are outside the scope of massage therapy.

Swedish Massage

One of the most commonly taught and well-known massage techniques, Swedish massage is a vigorous system of treatment designed to energize the body by stimulating circulation. Five basic strokes, all flowing toward the heart, are used to manipulate the soft tissues of the body. The disrobed client is covered by a sheet, with only the area being worked on exposed. Therapists use a combination of kneading, rolling, vibration, percussive, and tapping movements, with the application of oil, to reduce friction on the skin.  Its active and passive movements of the joints promote general relaxation, improve circulation and range of motion, and relieve muscle tension. The many benefits of Swedish massage may include dissolution of scar tissue adhesion, and improved circulation, which may speed healing and reduce swelling from injury.

Deep Tissue Massage

Techniques that utilize deep-tissue/deep-muscle massage are administered to affect the sub-layer of musculature and fascia. These techniques require advanced training and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology. The muscles must be relaxed in order to effectively perform deep-tissue massage, otherwise tight surface muscles prevent the practitioner from reaching deeper musculature. It helps with chronic muscular pain and injury rehabilitation and reduces inflammation-related pain caused by arthritis and tendinitis. It is generally integrated with other massage techniques.

Myofascial Release

To understand what Myofascial Release (MFR) is and why it works, you have to understand a little about Fascia. Fascia is a thin tissue that forms a three dimensional, continuous web throughout the body It is very densely woven tissue, covering and penetrating every muscle and every fiber within each muscle. All muscle stretching, then, is actually stretching of the fascia and the muscle, the myofascial unit. In a normal state, fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When we experience physical trauma, scarring or inflammation, among other things, the fascia loses its elasticity and pliability. It becomes tight and restricted, becoming a source of tension for the rest of the body. This uneven stress can be transmitted through the fascia to other parts of the body, causing pain and restriction of motion in areas you often wouldn’t expect. Myofascial Release treats these symptoms by releasing the uneven tightness in injured fascia.

In other words, Myofascial Release is stretching of the fascia. The stretch is guided by feedback the therapist feels from the patient’s body. This feedback tells the therapist how much force to use, the direction of the stretch and how long to stretch. Small areas of muscle are stretched at a time. The therapist may use their entire hand or may use only two fingers to stretch a small part of a muscle.

Each Myofascial Release technique contains the same components. The therapist finds the area of tightness. A light stretch is applied to the tight area. The therapist waits for the tissue to relax and then increases the stretch. The process is repeated until the area is fully relaxed. Then, the next area is stretched.

Manual Lymph Drainage

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a type of gentle massage which is intended to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph fluid from the tissues space body. Lymph returns protein and excess interstitial fluid to the circulation. Lymph may pick up bacteria and bring them to lymph nodes where they are destroyed. Metastatic cancer cells can also be transported via lymph. Lymph also transports fats from the digestive system.

A gentle technique that works through the body’s lymphatic system to activate the body fluid circulation and stimulate the functioning of the immune and parasympathetic nervous systems. The result of these actions can include reductions in edemas, detoxification of the body, regeneration of tissue as well as many other benefits.

Therapists work with flat hands, using all the fingers to simulate gentle, specific wave-like movements. These subtle manual maneuvers activate lymph and interstitial fluid circulation as well as stimulate the functioning of the immune and parasympathetic nervous systems. It is shown that when these actions are accomplished, the results can be:

  • Reduction in edemas (swelling) and lymphedemas of various origins
  • Detoxification of the body
  • Regeneration of tissue, including burns, wounds and wrinkles
  • Anti-aging effects
  • Effective for treatment of edema caused by cancer treatments (chemo, radiation, surgery)

Neuromuscular Therapy

This comprehensive program of soft-tissue manipulation balances the body’s central nervous system with the musculoskeletal system. Based on neurological laws that explain how the central nervous system initiates and maintains pain, the goal is to help relieve the pain and dysfunction by understanding and alleviating the underlying cause. Neuromuscular therapy can help individuals who experience distortion and biomechanical dysfuncti
on, which is often a symptom of a deeper problem. It is also used to locate and release spasms and hyper contraction in the tissue, eliminate trigger points that cause referred pain, rebuild the strength of injured tissues, assist venous and lymphatic flow, and restore postural alignment, proper biomechanics, and flexibility to the tissues. The American Academy of Pain Management recognizes this form of massage therapy as an effective treatment for back pain caused by soft tissue injury (such as a muscle strain).

The human body maintains life and health by maintaining a balanced internal environment called homeostasis. Every day, life situations threaten to disrupt this balance. Physical traumas, strains and even emotional stress undermine this balance. This imbalance leads to aches and pains that, left untreated, may result in dysfunction.

Neuromuscular therapy (NMT) is a method developed that gets to the root of these imbalances. Therapists treat the cause of the pain (primarily musculoskeletal dysfunction) not just the effects. Neuromuscular therapy identifies five sources of pain:

  • Ischemia or lack of sufficient blood supply to the soft tissues. This can be caused by tightness in the muscles that may be found in stressed, tired or overexerted muscles.
  • Nerve compression, this is pressure on a nerve by bone, cartilage or soft tissue such as muscles. As tightness increases, more pressure is put on the nerves sending pain signals to the brain.
  • Trigger points occur when nerves fire impulses at a rapid speed into an area of the body other than the area that is injured. This may be caused by small local tightness in muscles.
  • Postural distortion. If this is caused by an imbalance in the muscular or other soft tissue systems, it may be helped with neuromuscular treatment.
  • Biomechanical dysfunction is an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system resulting in faulty movement patterns.

An NMT therapist will palpate tissues to determine what issues are at work to cause your pain. This is a therapeutic massage method as opposed to a relaxation massage, although many times your treatment will contain components of both. In the therapeutic part of your treatment, appropriate pressure will be used depending of condition of tissues and client.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger Point

What are Trigger points?

Trigger points are knots, lumps or strings of muscle tissue that are the cause of most muscle pain and dysfunction. Some trigger points may be obvious to a person in pain but most are not noticed until direct pressure is applied to them by a skilled trigger point massage therapist. Often when a trigger point has pressure applied to it, it will refer pain to another area. The ones that you feel an immediate sensation with are called active trigger points. The trigger points that you don’t notice until pressure is applied to them are called latent trigger points.

Often the area of your body that is in pain is not the cause of the problem but only a symptom. Trigger points in other areas of the body are usually found to be the cause of such pain. The body has over 200 pairs of muscles in which trigger points can be found which can be the cause of sports injuries, chronic pain, depression, muscle tension and fatigue. They are related to diseases such as fibromyalgia and other myofascial (muscle pain) pain syndromes. Trigger points are not the same as Shiatsu or acupressure points which are points along the meridians of the body. They are also different from tender points which are usually ‘soft spots’ in the muscles that create pain.

Myofascial trigger points can also be the cause of emotional distress. When we carry pain around with us all day it requires a lot of energy. Releasing trigger points can also relieve some of the emotional stress. Trigger points can be the cause of headaches, fibromyalgia, TMJ, insomnia, sciatica, heel pain, muscle strains and many other health conditions.

What causes Trigger points?

While there is much research and information on trigger points, there is not one widely accepted answer. They can begin forming when there is an injury or sustained load on a muscle. Postural distortions in the body can lead to increased strain on a muscle leading to the formation of a trigger point. Repetitive movements can overload muscle. Even though sitting at a desk does not seem like strenuous work, it does require that your muscles be strong enough to hold you up for that amount of time without moving much.

There are a few different methods of treating trigger points. The use of direct pressure on the exact points can help reduce the pain in the trigger point which allows the muscle knot to start relaxing and resume proper functioning. Because of the body holds muscle memory, it often takes a series of sessions to completely relieve pain caused by trigger points.

Chair Massage

Known as seated massage, chair massage, or on-site massage, this technique involves the use of a specially designed massage chair in which the client sits comfortably. The modern chair massage was originally developed David Palmer, but the technique is centuries-old, with some Japanese block prints illustrating people having just emerged from a nearby bath, receiving massage while seated on a low stool. Seated massage includes bodywork and somatic techniques, such as shiatsu, amma, and Swedish massage, provided to the fully clothed client in a variety of settings, including businesses, airports, and street fairs.

Medical Massage

Performing medical massage requires a firm background in pathology and utilizes specific treatments appropriate to working with disease, pain, and recovery from injury. The therapist may work from a physician�s prescription or as an adjunct healer within a hospital or physical therapy setting.

Muscle Energy Technique

Muscle energy is a direct, noninvasive manual therapy used to normalize joint dysfunction and increase range of motion. The practitioner evaluates the primary areas of dysfunction in order to place the affected joints in precise positions that enable the client to perform gentle isometric contractions. These directed movements help correct neuromuscular and joint difficulties. 

Raindrop Technique

Raindrop Technique is a sequence of anointing with therapeutic grade essential oils and laying on of hands that brings structural and electrical alignment to the body in a relaxing and invigorating manner.  The Raindrop oils are high in phenolic content to ward off potentially damaging viruses and bacteria while cleansing cellular receptor sites to enhance inter- and intra-cellular communication.  Some raindrop oils contain monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes to assist in correcting cellular memory.

The purpose of Raindrop Technique is to:

  • boost the immune system,
  • stimulate every organ, gland, muscle and bone of the body at a cellular level,
  • assist the body to come into structural and electrical balance, and
  • enable the release of toxins and physical or emotional imbalances wherever they may be lodged.