Introduction to Massage
by Joshua Poulin
December 7, 2019
Massage and bodywork have been used, in one form or another, for thousands of years to promote health and well being. The Chinese culture has practiced ‘Amma’ techniques since around 3000 B.C., as the Cong Fou of Tao-Tse attests. In the Indian medicinal practice of Ayurveda, Tshanpau has been used since about 1800 B.C. In the West, we find them integrated into rehabilitation programs, but also (and often) these practices are helpful in a large variety of other situations, such as comforting prenatal mothers-to-be, as palliative care for hospice patients, or for general relaxation and decrease in stress levels, as examples. I think massage therapy should be a vital and useful part of every individual’s overall health routine.
Practicing as a massage therapist for 15 years, I have had the privilege to be a part of thousands of clients individual health protocols. In one such case, I was working with a client who had some range of motion restriction and pain when raising their right arm overhead. This client had seen a few other bodyworkers, but the cause of the issue was elusive. As it turns out, after a functional assessment of that shoulder, as well as palpation of the muscles connected to it, we discovered that the client had a range of motion restrictions in the right pectoralis minor, as well as the latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoid, and biceps brachii. In this case, the patient’s history showed an old exercise injury, with muscular and fascial scar tissue present. We decided to proceed with a protocol that involved contrast (hot/cold) therapy, a daily stretching routine, functional exercises, as well as some deep scar tissue massage work. This type of massage is more goal-oriented, and tends to not be the most comfortable modality. The client understood this and stayed faithful to the protocol, knowing that the results would follow. After 1 month, the client showed an increase in range of motion of more than +50% compared to the initial assessment, and by month two, had improved that to +80%. When we reassessed the client at the 3 month mark, they had nearly ALL of the range of motion restored, and were substantially stronger in the previously weaker/restricted muscles.
This was certainly a situation where immediate pain was present, but this is not always the case. In my practice, I also use massage and bodywork to help athlete’s muscular and nervous systems prepare for competition, to recuperate afterwards, to facilitate lymph movement in the reduction of swelling, to improve overall blood and interstitial fluid flow, etc.
Keep in mind, not all benefits of massage or bodywork are physical. Psychological and neurological benefits have also been reported in many studies. One of the more famous studies on the need for massage therapy and it’s emotional ramifications was conducted by a pediatrician named Dr. Fritz Talbot. He concluded that human beings are creatures that NEED human contact and touch to thrive.
There are times where I have found that massage is needed in a more short-term, symptomatic situation, such as in the case of a calf cramp or minor headache. In other cases, clients may require long-term treatment, such as athletes who need to keep fluid and flexible, or those gaining in years who just want to keep as mobile and ambulatory as possible. From the very first session, massage can (and should be) customizable to YOUR individual needs. I have seen many clients who simply needed to “walk out feeling better than when they walked in”. In my practice, I strive to be flexible enough to suit as many needs as I may. I look forward to seeing you in the near future!