Many new massage therapists will try and “muscle” their way through a client’s area of concern. This means using more strength, pressure, and energy in attempting to loosen tight muscles and other connective tissue. The client’s body, however, may respond by tightening up even further.
When appropriate, more invasive massage treatments that include deep tissue massage, cross fiber friction, myofascial release, and Rolfing may be better suited for clients who suffer with chronic pain due to old injuries with accumulated scar tissue.
This type of work often is accompanied by soreness for hours or days following the massage.
However, it has been shown that areas of tightness or restricted range of motion do indeed loosen and respond much better to non invasive techniques like active isolated stretching, positional release, and Trager work.
And the client usually experiences little or no pain following the session. In fact, if done regularly, active isolated stretching (for example) is a quick and easy way to actually improve posture by loosening what is tight and strengthening what is weak.
This is why it is important for massage clients to seek out a licensed massage therapist who has the training and hands on work experience to decide what course of action best fits their needs.
Do you provide a deeper more invasive massage, or a less invasive massage session. Client assessment is the key in making the determination.
An often overlooked part of being a massage therapist is knowing how to properly asses a client. It includes reviewing a client’s medical history and intake form, and gathering as much information as possible about that client’s daily activities in determining which type of massage will be most appropriate.
An important assessment tool is differentiating between overuse and injury. This means recognizing common signs and symptoms of an injury like pain, swelling (edema), heat, redness or discoloration, and sometimes loss of function.
A client may just be suffering from overuse due to repetitive motions or activities. Overused muscles typically suffer from ischemia (lack of appropriate blood flow), loss of important electrolytes, tightness (restricted range of motion), trigger and tender points, and sometimes pain.
This often leads to protective spasms known as muscle guarding or splinting.
Massage and bodywork is appropriate on these areas if there is no sign of injury. Working on an injured area further increases the swelling and disrupts the healing process. Only manual lymphatic drainage is appropriate over an acute (new) injured area.
So for you massage therapists out there, keep learning, be a good listener, perform proper assessment, and make sound decisions in determining what type of massage to use on your clients.