Manual manipulation of the soft tissue of the body
A licensed practitioner combines manual techniques and adjunctive therapies to positively affect the well-being of a client. Massage therapy encompasses more than 150 variations in techniques and approaches. Some of these techniques focus on the entire body while others focus on specific areas. Whatever the case, massage therapy offers something for everyone.
This technique uses kneading, long gliding strokes, and friction applied to the superficial layers of muscles. The emphasis of Swedish massage is to stimulate the circulation of blood and lymph—important to the immune system—throughout the soft tissues of the body.
This technique is similar to Swedish massage but with the intent to go deeply into muscle tissue. The therapist focuses on troubled areas by stretching and separating the muscles to give relief, an effective way to approach chronic problems.
Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques (MAT) is a term that was developed by Erik Dalton, Ph.D., in the early ‘80s, after he recognized a need for more integration among the perspectives that apply to pain in the human body.
After years working as a certified Rolfer® and studying under legendary figures, such as Ida Rolf, Dr. Vladimir Janda, and Dr. Phillip Greenman, Erik realized a comprehensive and inclusive approach was needed to help clients experiencing pain. Erik’s fascination with Janda’s Upper/Lower Crossed Postural Model challenged him to formulate basic techniques that incorporated his powerful discoveries in a program (MAT) to benefit the massage and bodywork community.
In 1998, the Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques book and video were released. This very popular MAT home study course included Dalton’s “Dirty-Dozen” routines for assessing and correcting pain problems associated with Janda’s commonly seen “crossed posture” model. It was then that Myoskeletal Alignment–an integrative marriage of the work of Vladimir Janda, Rolfing, and manipulative Osteopathy–was born.
The MAT program was developed as a tool to help relieve the neck and back pain that is endemic among contemporary humans. By incorporating muscle-balancing techniques with joint-mobilization maneuvers, manual therapists learn to quickly identify and correct dysfunctional neurologically-driven strain patterns before they become pain patterns.
Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) is performed with ergonomically-designed stainless steel instruments that detect and treat fascial restrictions, encourage rapid localization (immediate detection), and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis (hardening of tissue/fibers), chronic inflammation, or degeneration.
The instruments enable the therapist to locate and breakdown fascial restrictions and/or scar tissue with an appropriate amount of pressure.
IASTM benefits patients with adhesions in the soft tissue, which may have developed as a result of:
This specialized therapy recognizes that when muscles are shortened by activity or overuse, serious complications or other conditions arise. James Waslaski, the supervisor of massages therapists for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, developed an Orthopedic Massage program that stresses what can or cannot be done by the therapist pre- and post-event. Pre-event therapeutic treatment makes no major changes in order to preserve the athlete’s range of motion. Post-event massage flushes out lactic acid and toxins as quickly as possible. Waslaski discourages deep muscle work; instead, the therapist must move impurities out through the circulatory systems. Also, he stresses orthopedic testing of specific muscles instead of muscle groups no less than ten days prior to the event to see which are shortened and tightened. In this way, each muscle is balanced, symmetrical, and working synergistically, but also acting as an individual muscle. Unlike most massage therapies, Orthopedic Massage works on specific muscles to accomplish overall, optimal results.
Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) as a hands-on technique designed to attain and sustain proper functioning of the human fluid system was developed by Bruno Chikly MD, DO from his award-winning research on the lymphatic system. His principles of LDT enables trained therapists to detect the specific rhythm, direction, depth, and quality of the lymphatic flow. The LDT process uses gentle manual maneuvers to aid in the recirculation of body fluids. Due to the nature and role of the lymphatic system, LDT is beneficial in the correction of numerous conditions and for preventive health maintenance. Specifically, LDT works by circulating body fluids, stimulating the immune system, and promoting a relaxed, balanced autonomic nervous system. LDT offers positive results by reducing the swelling and lymph edemas of many origins; detoxifying the body; relieving chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain/inflammation as well as fibromyalgia; and much more.
The Mindful Touch Therapy (MTT) program—based on the idea that touch can have a profound impact on health and well-being—supports individuals living with cancer, critical illness, pain, or extreme stress. Designed to safely, effectively support medical procedures and treatment programs—this healing modality improves circulation, reduces blood pressure, stimulates energy movement and balance, and releases endorphins, the body’s own painkillers. A unique blend of massage therapy and healing principles, MTT may enhance the immune system but also successfully aids physical and mental relaxation.
Myofascial Release (MFR) uses a gentle blend of stretching, massage, and hands-on manipulation of the entire body to promote healing and relieve pain. Myofascial comes from the Latin term “myo” for muscle and “fascia” for band. Thus, therapists use the technique to ease pressure in the fibrous bands of connective tissue, or fascia. Giving shape to our bodies, fascia is a continuous, uninterrupted network throughout the body that provides support, cushioning, and flexibility.
MFR helps in the treatment of many injuries and disorders. Poor posture, physical injury, illness, and emotional stress can throw a body out of alignment and cause its intricate web of fascia to become taut and constricted. Abnormal pressures may tighten or bind fascia to the underlying tissues, creating “adhesions” or scar tissue that clings to the muscle fibers, often stiffening joints or contributing to painful motions, such as rotator cuff injuries. Abnormal pressure near a nerve may also cause the numbness, pain, or tingling experienced as sciatica or carpal tunnel syndrome. MFR frees adhesions, softens and lengthens the fascia, while improving circulation and nervous system transmission.
Cupping therapy dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical texts in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C. More recently, Soma Cupping developed by Gregory Gorey, LMT, combines the traditional Chinese method with proven myofascial release to eliminate trigger points and adhesions within myofascial tissues.
Myofascial Release is a safe and effective hands-on technique, whereby gentle sustained pressure is applied to the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions, eliminating pain and restoring motion.
Cupping therapy, a form of alternative medicine, uses cups made of a variety of materials, such as glass, bamboo, plastic, or silicone placed on the skin to create suction. In Soma Cupping Therapy, silicone cups are used by the therapist, who first applies a lubricant to move cups along the skin, dragging and manipulating fascial tissue layers. By moving the cups in particular patterns and directions, the therapist is able to release fascia that has become immobilized or “stuck” to other soft tissue structures.
This approach promotes increased blood and lymphatic flow to problem areas through suction, increases range of motion by releasing the fascial adhesion, and enhances healing for a broad range of medical ailments.
CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a light-touch approach to healing. This hands-on therapy releases tensions in the soft tissues and fluid of the craniosacral system that protect the brain and spinal cord. Dysfunction in the craniosacral system can affect the performance of the central nervous system, which, in turn, affects overall health. The gentle techniques of CST allow the entire body to relax and self-correct, thus decreasing pain and dysfunction, strengthening resistance to disease, and enhancing well-being. An effective therapy for all ages from newborns to the elderly, CST addresses a range of pain, illness, and dysfunction.
By pinpointing areas of the craniosacral system that are not functioning properly, the practitioner utilizes various delicate manual techniques to release tension and improve the function of the central nervous system. Each person’s experience in a session is individual and unique; however, most people report a greater sense of warmth or pulsing in the areas being worked on, as well as a generalized sense of relaxation.
The benefits of prenatal massage are numerous, both for mother and baby. During pregnancy, the body undergoes a great deal of change, which can result in new aches and pains. A drug-free approach to common conditions, prenatal massage provides pain relief, enhances immune function, and lowers blood pressure. Regular massage during pregnancy can also help prepare the body for labor.
Prenatal massage is typically safe during all three trimesters of pregnancy; however, receiving prenatal massage by a licensed, certified practitioner ensures proper precautions and adjustments are made to accommodate the pregnant client. If the pregnancy is deemed high risk for any reason, the client should gain clearance from a doctor for the massage.
A unique pain therapy, Muscle Release Technique (MRT) is a combination of a specific stretch in an exact plane of movement with moderate compression, while the client works on their breathing. This therapy not only helps to break up scar tissue, but also restores muscle length and range of motion for long-term relief from pain and stiffness.
As a treatment, MRT deals with the causes of pain rather than treating the symptoms. The cause of many painful conditions is tight, shortened muscles, although the pain may occur in another area. A tight, shortened muscle is a weak ineffective muscle—making joints susceptible to injury, entrapping the nerves and blood vessels, causing inflammation, pain, and numbness. Among the different causes are repetitive use, trauma (such as a blow to the muscle), or stress in certain parts of the body. MRT restores the health of the muscle, thus removing the cause of the discomfort. In many cases, the simple yet effective principles of MRT can provide relief in one session and also address chronic pain.
A very relaxing, deep muscle therapy, this technique releases tension and restrictions from soft tissue. Beginning with the application of light pressure, which is increased gradually, the flat surfaces of the therapist’s hands, fingers, and forearms are used to achieve a gentle, gradual release of soft tissue restrictions.
Involving a precise and systematic foot or hand massage, reflexology stimulates with a controlled pressure those reflex points that corresponds to the organs, systems, and structures of the body. Reflexology is based upon the body’s ability to heal itself. When a client is in a state of imbalance from injury, stress, illness, or disease—reflexology can be used to restore and maintain the body’s natural equilibrium and encourage healing. As one of the least invasive procedures, reflexology is an ideal starting place for someone who is hesitant to receive his or her first massage.
Originating in China over 2,000 years ago, this unique, traditional healing technique eliminates toxins from the body by stimulating the Lymphatic system. Gua Sha involves palpation and cutaneous stimulation, which increase circulation of the blood for a healthier body. Using round-edged instruments, pressure is applied in strokes to areas of the skin. Raising “Sha” in this way removes blood stagnation, which is considered pathogenic, and promotes normal circulation and metabolic process. Making preventative healthcare a priority, the Chinese observed that Gua Sha was one of the most effective ways to promote whole body health and reduce fever, pain, and fatigue.
For hundreds of years around the world, therapeutic stones have been used to enhance massage therapy. Utilizing the healing quality of moist heat, Hot Stone Massage is one of the fastest growing techniques in spas around the country. Heated stones applied to the body in various ways bring relief to stiff, sore muscles, alleviating chronic and acute problems. Basalt—the most abundant of the volcanic rocks available today—is the preferred stone because it is dense and retains heat during the therapeutic process.
Commonly used to rid the body of toxins, body wraps have therapeutic value as well. In some instances, they reduce swelling associated with injuries and arthritis. Reports suggest that warts, corns, and cracked skin disappear as a result of this treatment. Essentially, body wraps restore and refresh the skin.
Chair massage is an integrated approach, combining Swedish, deep tissue, and pressure point techniques to relieve the stress most individuals commonly experience. Clients remain fully clothed; no oils or creams are used. Performed on an ergonomically designed, portable massage chair, this massage is an appropriate choice for most on-site requests. As a cost-effective way to promote individual or employee well-being, workplace massages boost both employee morale and performance. When delivered in a corporate setting, chair massage can ease tension, encourage circulation in key muscle groups, and enable the nervous system to become more alert. Employees then return to work pain free and energized.