Acupressure is an ancient healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities. When these points are pressed, they release muscular tension and promote the circulation of blood and the body’s life force (sometimes known as qi or chi) to aid healing. Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points, but acupuncture employs needles, while acupressure uses the gentle, but firm pressure of hands and feet. Acupressure, continues to be the most effective method for self-treatment of tension-related ailments by using the power and sensitivity of the human hand. Acupressure can be effective in helping relieve headaches, eye strain, sinus problems, neck pain, backaches, arthritis, muscle aches, tension due to stress, ulcer pain, menstrual cramps, lower backaches, constipation, and indigestion. Self-acupressure can also be used to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. There are also great advantages to using acupressure as a way to balance the body and maintain good health. The healing touch of acupressure reduces tension, increases circulation, and enables the body to relax deeply. By relieving stress, acupressure strengthens resistance to disease and promotes wellness. In acupressure, local symptoms are considered an expression of the condition of the body as a whole. A tension headache, for instance, may be rooted in the shoulder and neck area. Thus, acupressure focuses on relieving pain and discomfort, as well as responding to tension, before it develops into a disease—before the constrictions and imbalances can do further damage. The origins of acupressure are as ancient as the instinctive impulse to hold your forehead or temples when you have a headache. Everyone at one time or another has used their hands spontaneously to hold tense or painful places on the body. More than five thousand years ago, the Chinese discovered that pressing certain points on the body relieved pain where it occurred and also benefited other parts of the body more remote from the pain and the pressure point. Gradually, they found other locations that not only alleviated pain, but also influenced the functioning of certain internal organs.
Applied Kinesiology is a healing system that evaluates and treats an individual’s structural, chemical, and mental aspects. It employs muscle testing and other standard methods of diagnosis. Applied Kinesiology therapeutically utilizes nutrition, manipulation, diet, acupressure, exercise, and education to help restore balance and harmony in the body and maintain well-being throughout life. (From Alternative Healing, by Hugh Burroughs and Mark Kastner, Halcyon, 1993.) Dr. George Goodheart, a chiropractor in Detroit, Michigan, discovered the technique in 1964 during a patient treatment. After applying a few seconds of deep pressure on the man’s severe muscular dysfunction, he found the problem was eliminated. Dr. John Thie developed a simplified version of Applied Kinesiology called Touch for Health in 1970
Known as seated massage, chair massage, or on-site massage, this technique involves the use of a specially designed massage chair in which the client sits comfortably. The modern chair massage was originally developed David Palmer, but the technique is centuries-old, with some Japanese block prints illustrating people having just emerged from a nearby bath, receiving massage while seated on a low stool. Seated massage includes bodywork and somatic techniques, such as shiatsu, amma, and Swedish massage, provided to the fully clothed client in a variety of settings, including businesses, airports, and street fairs.
CONNECTIVE TISSUE MASSAGE
Also known as bindegewebsmassage, Connective Tissue Massage (CTM) techniques are designed to specifically affect the connective tissue of the body. CTM was developed in Germany by Elizabeth Dicke. After diagnosis of a serious medical problem, she experimented with different types of massage on herself. She found when she applied light pressure through the skin and connective tissue in one area of the body, there was a related effect at a distant site. From Alternative Healing, by Hugh Burroughs and Mark Kastner, Halcyon, 1993, “The technique consists of the massage therapist subtly hooking her fingers into the skin and superficial connective tissue while performing a dragging or pulling stroke that somewhat stretches the skin. CTM leaves a visible mark that looks somewhat like an abrasion or burn, but which goes away without leaving a scar.” In Germany, it is considered a physical therapy technique; in many parts of Europe, it is considered a medical technique. In the United States, connective tissue massage is taught in many massage schools.
CORE STRUCTURAL INTEGRATIVE THERAPY
Originated by George P. Kousaleos, CORE is a myofascial, postural, and structural somatic therapy combining massage techniques with client-assisted movement. Normally lasting ten sessions, there are four phases of CORE body therapy organized according to the level or layer of fascia, muscle, and supporting soft tissues that are manipulated: core massage, core extrinsic, core intrinsic, and core integration.
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, noninvasive method of evaluating and enhancing the function of a physiological body arrangement called the craniosacral system. Developed by John E. Upledger, DO, OMM, this manual therapy enhances the body’s natural healing processes and has proven effective in treating a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction. The roots of this therapy are in cranial osteopathy, developed by Dr. William G. Sutherland. The craniosacral system consists of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It extends from the bones of the skull, face, and mouth–which make up the cranium–down to the sacrum or tailbone. Since this system influences the development and function of the brain and spinal cord, any imbalance or dysfunction in the craniosacral system could cause sensory, motor, or neurological disabilities. These problems may include chronic pain, eye difficulties, scoliosis, motor-coordination impairments, learning disabilities, and other dysfunctions of the central nervous system. Craniosacral therapy encourages the body’s natural healing mechanisms to improve the functioning of the central nervous system, dissipate the negative effects of stress, and enhance health and resistance to disease. The craniosacral therapy practitioner uses a light touch to assist the natural movement of fluid within the craniosacral system. Therapists generally use only five grams of pressure, roughly the weight of a nickel, to test for restrictions in various parts of the craniosacral system. It’s often possible for the evaluation alone to remove the restriction and allow the system to correct itself.
DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
Techniques that utilize deep-tissue/deep-muscle massage are administered to affect the sub-layer of musculature and fascia. These techniques require advanced training and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology. The muscles must be relaxed in order to effectively perform deep-tissue massage, otherwise tight surface muscles prevent the practitioner from reaching deeper musculature. It helps with chronic muscular pain and injury rehabilitation and reduces inflammation-related pain caused by arthritis and tendinitis. It is generally integrated with other massage techniques.
Feng shui (translated as “wind and water”) is the Chinese system of balancing the energy patterns of the physical environment. A composite of mystical beliefs, astrology, folklore, and common sense, the Chinese concept of feng shui blends ancient wisdom with cultural tradition. The laws of feng shui provide for positioning homes/businesses and designing room and office layouts in ways that promise to enhance the quality of their occupants’ lives and businesses by channeling energy in positive ways. These principles strive for creating balanced, peaceful dwellings by bringing together the external and internal and living in harmony with natural and man-made environments. Good feng shui promises occupants health, happiness, prosperity, and long life–a conscious connection between the outside environment and the world within. These same principles can also be applied to the human body (called min xiang shue) to promote inner character and restore harmony to areas of imbalance. Through meditation and daily exercises, min xiang shue can allow a deeper self-awareness and regeneration.
This technique is based on classical Chinese medicine’s law of the five elements. The five-element system views the human body as a microcosm of the universe with the tides of energy and emotions waxing and waning. These energies and emotions are stored in the visceral organs and move through specific pathways or meridians in the body in a regular and cyclical fashion. When these energies or emotions become blocked, or deficient or excessive through stress, trauma, or disease, the five-element practitioner may use carefully controlled pressure on certain meridian points to help move the energy or emotions. This restores the natural cycle of energy and emotional movement, thus helping the person’s natural ability to heal.
This therapy requires two practitioners to simultaneously massage the client’s left and right sides, making sure to mimic the other’s motions and to exert equal pressure for a balanced experience.
Geriatric massage, with its focus on the elderly, addresses the psychological and physiological aspects of aging and its associated diseases. Bodywork, often limited to a shorter time span, is often performed in residential care facilities.
Used in China for more than two thousand years, gua sha means to scrape toxins. A method of promoting blood circulation and removing toxic heat, blood, and lymph from the body, gua sha involves scraping the skin with a flat tool to facilitate pain relief. Olive oil and herbs are usually applied to the skin to open pores, increase deep cleansing, and improve circulation.
Developed by Janet Mentgen, RN, Healing Touch is an energy-based therapeutic approach to healing. Healing Touch uses touch to influence the energy system, thus affecting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health, as well as healing. The goal of Healing Touch is to restore harmony and balance in the energy system to help the person to self-heal. The quality and impact of the healing is influenced by the relationship between the giver and receiver.
INFANT MASSAGE INSTRUCTION
Qualified instructors teach parents how to properly massage their infants. Infant massage is also utilized in hospital neonatal care units. This specialized form of touch is successful, not only in the critical weight gain of premature infants, but also in creating a strong bond between parent and infant and exposing a young child to the benefits and pleasures of touch.
INTEGRATIVE MANUAL THERAPY
This therapy recognizes that each person is more than the total components of anatomy, physics, and chemistry and is instead affected by emotions, thoughts, social interactions, mind, spirit, consciousness, soul, and more. Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) combines multiple therapies to locate and alleviate health challenges through individual body systems. Utilizing a combination of structural rehabilitation (a manual therapy process of normalization) and functional rehabilitation (a therapy to restore functional outcome according to the optimal potential of the client), IMT utilizes the expertise of professionals in many fields–physical therapy, osteopathic medicine, homeopathy, audiology, massage therapy, etc.
Kinesiology is the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy related to human body movement, specifically the action of individual muscles or groups of muscles that perform specific movements. Applied kinesiology involves muscle testing to assess a client’s condition.
Stones of all shapes and sizes and varying temperatures, ranging from zero to 140 degrees, are used during LaStone massage therapy to elicit physical healing, mental relaxation, and a spiritual connection to earth energy. Warm stones encourage the exchange of blood and lymph and provide soothing heat for deep-tissue work. Cold stones aid with inflammation, moving blood out of the area, and balancing male/female energies. Stones are placed in varying positions on the body for energy balancing or may be used by the therapist for specific trigger-point work. The alternating heat and cold of thermotherapy brings the entire body into the healing process, with a rapid exchange of blood and oxygen and alternating rise and fall of respiration rate as the body seeks homeostasis. LaStone therapy requires less effort from the practitioner’s own body and delivers healing warmth to the hands, benefitting the therapist, as well as the client. Founder Mary Harrigan drew from the wisdom of ancient healers in using thermotherapy as the basis for her approach.
LYMPH DRAINAGE THERAPY
Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) is unique in that healthcare professionals learn how to palpate the lymphatic flow. As they develop their skills, they can then identify the rhythm, direction, and quality of the lymphatic flow. Advanced practitioners will be able to precisely map the lymphatic flow to find alternate pathways for drainage. Developed by Bruno Chikly, MD, Lymph Drainage Therapy evolved from years of training in traditional medicine, Asian medical practices, and manual therapies.
THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE THERAPY
Massage or massage therapy are systems of structured palpation or movement of the soft tissue of the body. The massage system may include, but is not limited to, such techniques as, stroking, kneading, gliding, percussion, friction, vibration, compression, passive or active stretching within the normal anatomical range of movement; effleurage (either firm or light soothing, stroking movement, without dragging the skin, using either padded parts of fingertips or palms); petrissage (lifting or picking up muscles and rolling the folds of skin); or tapotement (striking with the side of the hand, usually with partly flexed fingers, rhythmic movements with fingers or short rapid movements of sides of the hand). These techniques may be applied with or without the aid of lubricants, salt or herbal preparations, hydromassage, thermal massage or a massage device that mimics or enhances the actions possible by human hands. The purpose of the practice of massage is to enhance the general health and well-being of the recipient. Massage does not include the diagnosis of a specific pathology, the prescription of drugs or controlled substances, spinal manipulation or those acts of physical therapy that are outside the scope of massage therapy.
A variety of techniques that utilize movement re-education and proper body mechanics in combination with massage or soft-tissue manipulation. After observing the client, the therapist will determine which corrective measures are necessary to accomplish specific goals. Active client participation is important while the practitioner uses verbal instruction, hypnosis and imagery, deep muscle and connective tissue manipulation, and mobilization in the movement reeducation process.
Myofascial release is the three-dimensional application of sustained pressure and movement into the fascial system in order to eliminate fascial restrictions and facilitate the emergence of emotional patterns and belief systems that are no longer relevant or are impeding progress. First, an assessment is made by visually analyzing the human frame, followed by the palpation of the tissue texture of various fascial layers. Upon locating an area of fascial tension, gentle pressure is applied in the direction of the restriction. Myofascial release is an effective therapeutic approach in the relief of cervical pain, back pain, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, neurological dysfunction, restriction of motion, chronic pain, and headaches.
Pilates is a series of movements, done from a sitting, reclining, kneeling, or standing position, designed to increase strength and flexibility, release tension, and relieve chronic neck and back pain. Developed by German-born Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, this method combines elements of Eastern and Western disciplines, including yoga, t’ai chi, and ancient Greek and Roman exercise protocols. Specially designed apparatus are used for stretching and strengthening exercises and can be calibrated to the client’s needs. Repatterning movements and proper breathing techniques are important components of the training. The Pilates method is used in physical rehabilitation and is popular with athletes and performance artists, as well as those seeking to improve body conditioning.
Performed by a trained perinatal specialist, many methods of massage and somatic therapies are both effective and safe prenatally and during labor and postpartum periods of women’s pregnancies. Prenatally, specific techniques can reduce pregnancy discomforts and concerns and enhance the physiological and emotional well-being of both mother and fetus. Skilled, appropriate touch facilitates labor, shortening labor times and easing pain and anxiety. In the postpartum period, specialized techniques rebalance structure, physiology, and emotions of the new mother and may help her to bond with and care for her infant. Specialized, advanced training in the anatomy, physiology, complications, precautions, and contraindications is highly recommended, and many practitioners require referrals from physicians prior to therapy.
This traditional Chinese treatment combines hands-on and hands-off techniques that balance the flow of qi (energy) through the body, move and relieve qi blockages, and improve circulation. Qigong is also a combination of timed breathing and gentle flowing movement, meditation, visualization, and conscious intent all working together to achieve an integrated adjustment of mind and body in order to better cultivate, circulate, and balance qi, or life force. Qigong theory is the basis of traditional Chinese medicine and is used to treat many serious illnesses, as well as for relaxation.
Based on an ancient Chinese therapy, reflexology involves manipulation of specific reflex areas in the foot, hands, and ears that correspond to other parts of the body. Sometimes referred to as zone therapy, this bodywork involves application of pressure to these reflex zones to stimulate body organs and relieve areas of congestion. Similar to acupressure principles, reflexology works with the body’s energy flow to stimulate self-healing and maintain balance in physical function. This technique is used to reduce pain, increase relaxation, and stimulate circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids. It is especially useful in stress-related illness and emotional disorders. Reflexology is also convenient in cases where an area of the body is traumatized or diseased to the extent that direct manipulation is not appropriate.
SOFT TISSUE RELEASE
Soft-tissue release (STR) is a powerful injury treatment technique developed in Europe with the world’s fastest sprinters. Recovery rates once considered impossible by traditional therapists and sports medicine doctors were achieved, through methods based on European osteopathy techniques, along with insights from quantum physics. In recent years, STR has been given clinical application for chronic low back pain and whiplash injuries. STR deals directly with the reasons for soft tissue dysfunctions and subsequent referred pain and nerve entrapment. In acute conditions, STR affects the insidious way scar tissue is formed, and in chronic conditions, STR breaks up the fibrotic and adhered mass of scar tissue to quickly allow the muscle to return to its natural resting length. Once the muscle or muscle group has returned to the original resting length, there is an immediate release from the pain induced by the inflammation response. The client is placed in a particular position so that the muscle begins to stretch in a very specific direction or plane. When the exact location of the injury has been defined, a determined pressure is applied directly into the affected tissue or along a specific line of injury. At the same time, the client is given a set of instructions that now engage the antagonist of the muscles involved. The muscle is extended from a fixed position in a determined direction under a pinpoint of pressure. Decrease in pain and increase in range of motion are often immediate, offsetting any minor discomfort experienced.
Sports massage is designed to enhance athletic performance and recovery. There are three contexts in which sports massage can be useful to an athlete: pre-event, post-event, and injury treatment. Pre-event massage is delivered at the performance site, usually with the athlete fully clothed. Fast-paced and stimulating, it helps to establish blood flow and to warm up muscles. During the massage, the athlete generally focuses on visualizing the upcoming event. Post-event massage is also delivered on site, through the clothes. The intent here is to calm the nervous system and begin the process of flushing toxins and waste products out of the body. Post-event massage can reduce recovery time, enabling an athlete to resume training much sooner than rest alone would allow. When an athlete sustains an injury, skillful massage therapy can often speed and improve the quality of healing.
One of the most commonly taught and well-known massage techniques, Swedish massage is a vigorous system of treatment designed to energize the body by stimulating circulation. Five basic strokes, all flowing toward the heart, are used to manipulate the soft tissues of the body. The disrobed client is covered by a sheet, with only the area being worked on exposed. Therapists use a combination of kneading, rolling, vibrational, percussive, and tapping movements, with the application of oil, to reduce friction on the skin. The many benefits of Swedish massage may include generalized relaxation, dissolution of scar tissue adhesions, and improved circulation, which may speed healing and reduce swelling from injury.
Also called nuad bo rarn, Thai massage has been taught and practiced in Thailand for approximately twenty-five hundred years. Although the origins are somewhat vague, credit for Thai massage is given to a famous Indian doctor, Shivago Komarpaj, who was the personal physician of the Buddha and Magadha king. Historically, manipulation was one of four major branches composing traditional Thai ceremonies or magical practices. This is based on the theory the body is made up of seventy-two thousand sen, or energy lines, of which ten hold top priority. Thai massage also involves peripheral stimulating, meaning it acts as an external stimulant to produce specific internal effects. This point serves as the main division between Thai and Western massage. Thai massage is practiced on a firm mat on the floor instead of on a table, instrumental in the effective use of the practitioner’s body weight. Except for the feet, the client remains fully clothed, so draping is not necessary.
TRIGGER POINT MYOTHERAPY
Trigger point myotherapy is a noninvasive therapeutic modality for the relief and control of myofascial pain and dysfunction. The goal of treatment is the client’s recovery from or a significant reduction in myofascial pain. The treatment goal is achieved through a systematized approach. Treatment consists of trigger point compression, myomassage, passive stretching, and a regime of corrective exercises. Success may be measured subjectively by the level of pain reduction experienced by the client and objectively through increased range of motion, strength, endurance, and other measures of improved function. Trigger point myotherapy relies heavily on client-therapist interaction, including verbal and nonverbal elements. The myotherapist encourages the client to be personally responsible for their improvement, with attention to such factors as nutritional intake, stress, proper exercises, mechanical abnormalities, and other physical components. These elements protect the client from delayed diagnosis, delayed treatment, or contraindicated treatment, which are the concerns of first order. Trigger point myotherapy is an integrating approach to myofascial pain and dysfunction.
Tui na is an ancient Chinese system of manual therapeutics with a wide range of techniques and indications. While traditional Chinese medical precepts form its theoretical basis, clinical experience governs its application. Tui na techniques range from those that are light and soothing to those that are strong and invigorating. Refined over the centuries, tui na facilitates healing by regulating the circulation of blood and qi (vital energy), which controls body function and enhances resistance to disease. The term tui na (pronounced t-weigh na) combines the names of two of the hand techniques, tui meaning to push and na meaning to lift and squeeze, which are used to represent the system. Practitioners of tui na claim there are more than 365 hand techniques, although they can be generally placed in the category of pressing, rubbing, waving, shaking, percussion, or manipulating. The term “tui na” first appeared in the Ming Dynasty text Pediatric Tui Na Classic in 1601.