Massage therapy is as important to maintaining a healthy body as exercise and diet. However, most of us still view massage as a luxury.
Massage is the practice of applying various techniques of pressure, tension, motion, or vibration, to muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints and lymphatic vessels. There are many different styles and modalities of massage. And each massage therapist has their own unique style and techniques within any given modality. Sometimes, it takes a succession of trial massages to find the therapist that is just right for you.
The AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) list of benefits to therapeutic massage are:
-Reduces blood pressure
-Reduces levels of anxiety
-Reduces muscle spasms
-Reduces pain and swelling
-Helps relieve mental stress
-Enhances athletic performance
-Strengthens the immune system
-Treats musculoskeletal problems
-Promotes deeper and easier breathing
-Helps relieve stress and aids relaxation
-Satisfies needs for caring nurturing touch
-Helps relieve muscle tension and stiffness
-Promotes a relaxed state of mental alertness
-Enhances the health and nourishment of skin
-Fosters peace of mind and a feeling of well-being
-Rehabilitation for post-operatives and post-injuries
-Provides greater joint flexibility and range of motion
-Improves circulation of blood and movement of lymph fluids
-Helps relieve tension-related headaches and effects of eye-strain
-Fosters faster healing of strained muscles and sprained ligaments
-Creates body awareness and increases awareness of mind-body connection
I get massage therapy once a week. I alternate weeks between two different types: traditional massage with deep tissue work and Rosen therapy. Rosen therapy uses a combination of muscle manipulation and pressure to release emotions and stories that are held in our muscles. So it is a combination of talk and massage. During traditional massage sessions, I don’t talk at all so that I be completely in my body, fully present to each moment of touch. As a Taurus it is very important to satisfy my sensual needs and as a predominately spiritual/intellectual soul, it is important for me to fully experience my physical body.
Just as we have buttons that get pushed when we are triggered by emotions from others or from specific events, our physical bodies have buttons that are called trigger points.
A trigger point is a muscle knot or a small area of muscle tissue in spasm. It is an accumulation of waste products around a nerve receptor. Spasms physically reduce blood flow to the trigger point area, reducing oxygen supplied to the tissues.
Trigger points can occur in muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, joint capsule, and scar tissue. They are most common in muscles that control movement of the body from side to side especially those used to maintain posture.
When a muscle is working, its fibers act like tiny pumps to circulate blood through the capillaries. A trigger point holds the muscle contracted, stopping blood flow. The resulting lack of oxygen and accumulation of waste products irritates the trigger point. The result is muscle fatigue, nerve irritation, soreness, and pain.
There are 2 types of trigger points:
Active: Causes pain with movement and compression and refers pain and tenderness to other areas, even when not being touched.
Latent: Is tender only under the area compressed and doesn't refer pain elsewhere.
Possible causes of trigger points include: overload, overwork, fatigue, direct trauma, chilling, skeletal asymmetry, other trigger points, arthritic joints, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, toxicity, lack of exercise, poor posture, sleep disturbances, joint problems, sports injuries, repetitive stress, surgical scars, tension, age, inflammatory and/or conditions.
Characteristics of trigger points are:
-Pain or tenderness
-Increased perspiration at site
-Resistance to gliding strokes
-Changes in thickness of tissue
-Muscle shortening with weakness
-Lumps felt in the muscles on palpation
-Bands, ropes, or string-like muscle fibers
-A twitch or jump response when touched
-Temperature change (area is usually colder)
-Symptoms of restricted movement, muscle stiffness and weakness, decreased range of motion, poor balance, buckling knees, and/or weak ankles
-Low level laser therapy
-Application of heat or cold
-Exercise for latent trigger points
-Injections (saline, anesthetics, steroids)
Massage treatment flushes the tissues and helps contracted muscle fibers release. There are 3 common massage methods are:
Trigger Point Pressure Release – Applying direct, firm pressure to the trigger point 10 seconds, released, then applied for 10 more seconds in a pumping action. This flushes the toxins and releases endorphins.
Deep Muscle Stroking – Applying slow, deep pressure along the length of the muscle. The goal is to elongate the shortened, contracted muscle fibers that house the trigger point.
Strumming - Applying pressure perpendicular to the muscle fibers that contain the trigger point. This cross-fiber action forces muscle fibers apart.
Plainsure is a term I invented to describe the bittersweet feeling of trigger point manipulation and release. It consists of 3 components:
The initial reaction to hitting on a trigger point is pain and jumping or twitching. The muscle(s) contract to resist the incoming pressure on the sore spot. Release of the pressure brings the pleasure. There are 3 levels of release when a trigger point is treated:
1. The Physical Level – Biochemical toxins are released from the trigger point area, relieving inflammation and irritation.
2. The Emotional Level – As described by Dr. Kirk Prine in his book, Erotic Body Prayer, memories are held in our bodies. They are called body stories. When muscles are moved, energy blocks are release, and the associated emotion or body story can be released into consciousness.
3. The Energetic Level – Any blockage in the physical body will cause a blockage in the energetic body as well. There are many meridians that our energy flows along.A trigger point will trap energy which will be released during treatment. Also the energetic body may develop an energetic block from past wounds first and then they may manifest as trigger points in the physical body.
There are 3 primary ways to treat and help prevent trigger points:
1. Get regular massages from a professional, your partner, or yourself (the areas you can reach).
2. Maintain an alkaline diet. Acidic foods create toxins in the body that can build up at trigger points faster.
3. Exercise and stretch. A professional massage therapist can help you design a stretching regimen that will keep your muscles in shape. Another form of stretching, yoga, is also excellent for keeping the body toned and limber.
Perhaps because I love receiving deep tissue body work so much, it is my preference in giving a massage as well. I love to seek out those knots and ropes with my fingers. It’s a vicarious pleasure to me as I visualize feeling what I am giving as I give it. One of my clients called me the Moan Maker. Moans, groans, and jumping are appreciated because they help me identify the location of tight spots and indicate whether the intensity of touch may be too soft or too hard. In addition, breathing deeply and making noises are an excellent form of energetic release for the client.
Sometimes clients don’t realize how resistant they are touch. Their hyper-vigilance (as a defense and survival mechanism) keeps the muscles in a contracted state of holding. Guided meditation for relaxation helps relax the muscles. As a hypnotherapist, I have done hypno-massage. The client is first hypnotized with an induction that includes going to a peaceful place in nature. Then the massage commences with muscles that are in a much more relaxed state. This makes it easier for the therapist to manipulate the muscles and it’s easier for the client to receive. At the end of the massage, post-hypnotic suggestions of peace, relaxation, and well-being are given.
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