In our last post (What makes a PERFECT Relaxation Massage!) we touched on what makes a perfect massage, and in particular we covered elements of a perfect relaxation massage. Today we're going to dive into what elements make a perfect therapeutic massage.
In the context of therapeutic massage it is important to work with the client closely, regulating your work and more importantly your intensity to their current ability and tolerance. Sometimes, if not all the time, when working through troubled areas there will be discomfort, pain, and stress response from the client.
First and foremost it is our duty as therapists to deal with this properly and aid the client in working through their issues, to varying degrees. This makes a pure therapeutic massage a difficult balance of comfort, discomfort, pain, and therapy which in turn changes with each and every person we put our hands on. Today we'll cover a simple way to navigate this work and what we must include in order to make our massage as therapeutic as possible.
How much is enough, what is too much? This again is dictated by the client and therapists knowledge. In regards to the client it is important to remember this phrase, "Challenge up until frustration." (Martin Wheeler) This quote is a principle we use in training martial arts, one I heard training Systema, a Russian martial art that is as healing as it is deadly. This phrase is a great reminder to let someone have it, but also to put on the breaks if necessary. In order to heal we must take our partner/client outside of their comfort zone to illicit healing. To do this properly it is imperative we know to a great extent how to make the client comfortable with this transition along side of having an immense knowledge of kinesiology (how the muscles move the body and joints), joint articulation, anatomy, and an extreme amount of sensitivity to feel the extent of our clients current ability, range of motion, or tension.
Outside of in depth anatomical knowledge and communication, sensitivity to the client is one of if not the most important piece to performing the most therapeutic massage. To develop sensitivity there is nothing that can replace martial art training. The sensitivity developed in a martial art setting will help your massage efficacy 100 fold, especially arts with grappling, locking, and throwing. I say this because on a base level it is important to know how far something will go before it breaks. In martial arts, simply put, we learn the breaking point of the body. Without that ultimate line there will be hesitation and uncertainty in your massage work. There is a great amount of depth in martial training that sadly words will never do it justice and to learn it effectively requires live demonstration, however, in the light of therapeutic massage knowing anatomical limits is just as important as knowing how to fix musculo-skeletal problems.
Having a good base of knowledge and sensitivity to practice it is important to have a basis of order in your environment and for how you relate to the client. Below are the elements I find most important:
Daniel R. Hyde
Licensed Massage Therapist
OIF, OEF Veteran
U.S. Marine Corps
Tui Na, Chinese Massage
Shiatsu, Japanese Massage
Tai Chi Chuan
Kwan Ying Do Kung Fu