Monday, January 24, 2011

Massage Monday: An Introduction

I've been throwing around ideas for a blog topic that could be a permanent fixture on At A Glacial Pace. Dogs seem to be my main concern here, but there are other dimensions to me and so I thought the series could be a demonstration of my other knowledge. It also gives me a chance to stay current on massage therapy and maybe educate a few folks out there. So, as I am assuming you have guessed, Mondays are going to be taken over by massage therapy posts and if I have anything else of consequence to say on those days, I'll just make a separate entry.

It has only been recently that massage therapy has been regarded as a viable form of alternative medicine. The practice is ancient and has seen many changes over the centuries. I may talk about he history of massage therapy one day, but today I want to focus on what it is; hopefully dispelling some of the misconceptions that are rampant.

There a few different definitions of massage therapy depending on where the therapist was educated. In Ontario canada, the focus of massage therapy is on the manipulation of soft tissue and joints for the betterment of these entities and the body as a whole. In the United States the definition goes even further and includes the administering of essential oils and other such things, but in Ontario, it is illegal for a Registered Massage Therapist to use essential oils unless he/she has been trained specifically in the Aroma Therapy modality. What does all this mean? English Please?
Basically, assage therapists are responsible for treating conditions of, such as carpel tunnel/whiplash/tendonitis Etc, by employing varying techniques to your muscles. It should never be out of your pain tolerance and a good therapist should establish a pain scale that does not allow your pain to go above seven out of ten; one being your least amount of pain and ten being your worst. Communication is essential as massage therapists cannot feel what you are feeling and do not know if what they are doing is painful for you. Pain is very subjective and is imperative to your health and the success of the treatment that you speak up. And don't be afraid to ask questions, or tell your therapist that things are uncomfortable. Maybe the sheets are too tight or maybe you feel they aren't covering you enough. Ultimately it is your treatment and you need to feel safe and comfortable. But I am digressing again. We were talking about the manipulation of soft tissues, AKA muscles/tendons/ligaments, and joints. Whoa, wait. Joints? Let me elaborate.
There are five stages of joint manipulation. The first phase you probably wouldn't even know your joint is being manipulated it is so subtle. Therapists-not just massage therapists, but physiotherapists and chiropractors as well-may use this stage to test joint health and mobility. From the movements become increasingly more obvious with the fifth stage being the most aggressive and pronounced. NO massage therapist should ever perform a stage five joint mobilisation! NEVER! These manipulations are what chiropractors use. They are quick, precise and much more aggressive than what a massage therapist has been trained to use. Again, communication is of the utmost importance when a therapist is using a joint mobilisation. These maneuvers should not be painful beyond the seven on the pain scale and a therapist should never force a joint into a position. The joints can be encouraged with gentle rockings, pressures and light stretching, but the joint should never be forced. Ther may be a bit more of a "push" or "pull" by the therapist in a stage four manipulation to encourage the joint to move, but massage therapists are not chiropractors and we are not trained to act as one. If you are not comfortable with joint mobilisations, tell your therapist. It is their job to respect your request and find another way to treat you.

Now that we've briefly addressed the biological aspect of a massage, let us discuss "types" of massage. Now there are plenty of what we would call types of massage out there, but I am going to focus on the two that are the standard types I was taught in my massage program. In other programs in the United States and in Western Canada for instance, Asian modalities are examined, and a therapist is expected to take Continuing Education Credits in modalities of interest, but in the program I took we learned Relaxation and Therapeutic massage. In other countries they have other names. For example, In the United States Therapeutic massage is referred to as "Deep Tissue" and Relation is "Swedish" massage. I could go off on an educational tangent about Swedish massage, but there are plenty of Mondays to come so I will continue in the direction of Relaxation and Therapeutic.

Relaxation massage is the type of massage you will more likely see at a spa. The techniques are performed in a slow, soothing manner and the goal of the treatment is for you, the client, to relax. Techniques are never painful and the therapist probably would not perform any joint mobilisations or more aggressive techniques that would be intrusive. At least, that is how I was taught and is how I go about my Relaxation massage.
As for the Therapeutic massage, the beginning of the massage is used to warm up the tissue, so the techniques are general and soothing; similar to the Relaxation massage. Here is where the therapist gets a little fancier. The goal of the treatment is to aid with recovery and hopefully eventually treat the client until they are symptom free. In other words, help you get better. The techniques for this massage are definitely deeper and may cause pain. The therapist may have to try a few different techniques before he/she knows what your body responds to best. For example, maybe you have a sore shoulder and you can't move it very well. There are many approaches the therapist could take depending on the time of injury and if there is any inflammation. . Ice, heat, stretching or all three may be used to assist you in regaining movement. You will probably be given, what I like to call, "homework," which is intended to speed/improve the healing process. Homework may include, drinking water, stretches, strengthening exercises, going for a walk Etc. Homework is not assigned in a Relaxation massage.

As you can see, massage is a complicated and interesting therapy: well, at least to me it is. There are so many possibilities for discussion topics and I am very excited. I hope you tune in on Mondays and feel free to leave me questions that you would like answered in the "comments" section. I will try my best to get them answered. If I don't use your question for the next post, or maybe even the post after that, it's because I am researching to ensure I give you the most accurate answer possible.
Happy reading and come back next Monday for more massage mumbo-jumbo. If dogs are what you like, then come back any other day of the week because the likelihood of me rambling on about "Man's best friend" is very high. :)

No comments: