Somewhere, somehow, massage therapy and manual therapy got confused!
Traditionally massage therapy has been utilized for its relaxing effect. Gentle pressure is applied in a very general fashion over the entire body. This is perfect for someone seeking a restful and calming experience. However, many people seek “bodywork” to relieve pain, prevent injury, or improve physical performance. This requires more than surface level skin rubbing…
In order to relieve tense and tight muscles, soothe aching tendons, and restore mobility to stiff joints, you need more than massage therapy. What you are looking for is called, Manual Therapy. The application of a variety of techniques including myofascial release, trigger point release, active release, and joint mobilization. Manual Therapy is skilled bodywork applied by a licensed medical professional as a form of treatment.
*As a point of clarity, a massage therapist becomes certified after completing 9 months of training. A physical therapist has a Doctoral level degree (3 years of post-graduate education and clinical affiliations) as well as additional specialty training in the application of manual therapy.
So Let’s Break It Down…
The term “sports massage” is often used to entice athletes who are looking for more than the typical “feel-good” massage. We do not restrict ourselves to this definition as all of our body work is specific and applied in such a way as to produce therapeutic benefits. Athletes are pushing the limits of their body’s capabilities – therefore producing extensive toxic by-products and strain to their muscles and joints. As a manual therapist it is important to understand the demands of individual sports – the primary muscle groups, the repeated movement patterns, the endurance demands, and the effects of high intensity training on the body.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is usually sought out by people looking for more than the “fluffy” stuff. All manual therapy is applied at the deep tissue level, however, specificity and individuality is again important. Knowing what tissue you are pressing on as well as what condition it is in is essential to successful treatment.
“Myo” refers to muscle and “fascial” refers to all the tissue that connects the muscles. Myofascial release therefore is all-encompassing. Muscle can become tight and sore, losing its elasticity and developing “hot spots” (trigger points) and “knots”. Likewise, fascia can become bound and inflamed contributing to rather extensive and severe pain. Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique that softens and releases the muscles and fascia by lifting, bending, and elongating the tissues. Add movement to these techniques and it now becomes Active Release.
Trigger Point Release
Trigger points are essentially “hot spots” in the muscles. When a muscle is tense and tight for a prolonged period of time (exercise, posture etc), the elastic fibers become inflamed producing lactic acid. The lactic acid sits in the muscle, becomes sticky, and eventually leads to a mass of scar tissue that binds the fibers – squeezing out blood and causing pain. These are also the “knots” that we so often feel in our necks and backs – tense tight muscle somewhere on the spectrum of forming a trigger point. The soft, elastic muscle tissue has become a fibrous mass that needs to be released.
Joint health is maintained by free movement in all directions and the lubricating effect of synovial fluid on the cartilage surfaces. Tight muscle, compacted fascia, and/or a stiff joint capsule can result in unnecessary joint compression. Imagine running with a weighted backpack – the spine, the hips, the knees and the ankles are all being compressed! Utilizing myofascial release in combination with joint mobilization allows for everything to “open” and creates more space in the joints.
If anything in the body is truly connected, it is the neurovascular system. Nerve tracks and vessels run continuously throughout the body with areas of increased density in the head, neck, spine and sacrum. Craniosacral therapy seeks to restore and/or balance flow through these vital areas.
Ready For More?
Physical Therapy Elite offers more than “Massage Therapy.” We offer specialized Manual Therapy, tailored to your body’s specific needs and lifestyle/activity goals. Who better than a licensed medical professional with advanced training in orthopedics to provide exactly what you need.
Have questions or looking to book an appointment? As always, feel free to give us a call: (406) 404-1313.
You can also check out how you can get the Best Massage Therapy & Best Manual Therapy in Bozeman here: www.pt-elite.com
One Hour Session: $65.00