At the beginning of a session, I always carry out a consultation, including a postural assessment (5 – 10 minutes) with clients in order to discuss their health and if there is anything I should be aware of. I plan my treatment taking this information into account, as well as the client’s preferences for areas of focus. Back tension is very common and so the back massage is often thorough, but I also employ many techniques on the feet, legs, stomach, arms, chest and face. People are often surprised to find they enjoy a massage that includes less common areas of focus such as the arms and the stomach. Treatment on the abdomen can help improve digestion, as well as to de-stress. Tension in certain areas of the body often has a knock-on effect on other areas, and so this is always taken into consideration for a treatment that has the maximum effectiveness. The aim is to restore homeostasis or balance within the body.
Sometimes if people have a lot of tension, they can feel quite sore after a treatment before they feel better usually soon after or the next day. This healing crisis (the technical and less alarming-sounding term is the Herxheimer reaction) is a normal reaction due to the release of built-up toxins and waste products from the muscles / promotion of fluid dynamics. It is usually experienced by people who have not had a treatment for a long time, and reduces with regular treatments. Referrals to other specialists are made where necessary, and homecare advice is given as part of an holistic approach.
Sports and Remedial Massage / Soft Tissue Therapy
Requiring in-depth anatomy and physiology knowledge to deal with particular muscle strains, injuries or postural issues. It involves range of movement, orthopaedic and muscle tests where necessary to inform the treatment, and rehabilitation plans and thorough homecare advice to follow on from the treatment. Alongside the deep tissue massage, a range of other techniques are used that help to target problem areas, particularly various types of stretches to stretch and relax muscles, help to tackle fibrotic tissues and potentially improve posture.
Deep Tissue Massage
Targeted at areas of tension, working deeply into muscles to achieve effective results. It is good for tackling poor postural habits (e.g. at work), exercise-related tension / stiffness, or various conditions / injuries.
Traditional Thai (yoga) Massage
Different from Western forms of massage in that it is done on a mattress on the floor, with the client in loose trousers and a top, and usually uses no oil. It is basically a mixture between using acupressure and stretching techniques. In this respect it is similar to a sports treatment – a mixture between firm massage, trigger point work and stretching – it is just done in a different way (I actually mix the two where appropriate). Acupressure is the use of pressure applied with the thumbs or fingers on specific trigger points / along what some people refer to as meridian lines. It is similar to what we call neuromuscular technique in sports massage – a method of reducing muscular spasming and hence easing tension in knots / tense areas.
I trained in Chiang Mai in Thailand, at ITM, an internationally-recognised school that trains students in Traditional Northern-style Thai massage, which differs from the Bangkok / southern-style in that it focuses more on stretches rather than solely on acupressure points. The teachers called it ‘yoga for lazy people’, and you do feel like you’ve had a good stretch after a session! So it is good for both improving flexibility, as well as easing tension. There are various remedial techniques used to tackle issues such as shoulder pain, back pain, knee problems, digestion problems, etc. If a person is not very flexible, the treatment can be adapted to focus more on acupressure points rather than the more active stretching. It can also be more relaxing with a focus on neck, face and head massage. A full-body Thai massage can actually take about two-and-a-half hours, but obviously this is not often practical for many people in this country. However, a lot can be achieved in ninety minutes or an hour, just focusing on areas the client would prefer / wherever they have tension.
A very soothing and calm adaptation of massage techniques to suit the various stages of pregnancy after the first trimester. It is not only a relaxing experience but can also help to alleviate discomfort, e.g. back aches and swelling. Deep tissue techniques, especially towards the end of a pregnancy, can also be applied to areas of tension if that is what the client prefers (although some areas are to be avoided).
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
Stimulates the lymphatic system by means of specific techniques that speed up the flow of lymph to the lymph nodes (all around our bodies), where waste products are cleaned and antigens killed (hence it is highly likely that MLD boosts the immune system). Due to the way lymph is pumped around our bodies, the way to affect and improve this flow happens to be very gentle and rhythmical, making this a very relaxing treatment. Oil is not usually used, as the therapist works with the sebum in the skin instead. I am trained in the Vodder technique, which is internationally recognized and has been around since the 1930s. Scientific reports over the years have found positive evidence for the effectiveness of this treatment: http://www.movinglymph.com/docs/Newsletters/Newsletter%20May%202013.pdf
The most common side effects of this speeded-up clearing of toxins to be aware of are a feeling of nausea or exhaustion (usually this goes within a few hours or by the next day). As with the feeling of soreness after a massage, these are usually experienced by people who have not had the treatment before or not for a long time. Also similarly to massage, good results are achieved and side effects eliminated / reduced after a series of regular treatments. The main benefits of MLD are:
– Decongesting and detoxing – helping the body to clear toxins and waste products. It can be very effective at reducing swelling, e.g. post-operation / injury, and water retention. As with massage, it can help the digestive system, and it can be good for the skin (e.g. it can be good for people with acne / rosacea or dry skin)
– Relaxing – it has a soothing effect on the autonomic nervous system and can thus be good to treat areas of chronic pain. In his latest book on trigger points, Simeon Niel-Asher points to increasing anecdotal evidence that MLD can help to release trigger points, particularly around the neck and clavipectoral areas in the acute phase of whiplash injury (The Concise Book of Trigger Points: A Professional and Self-Help Manual (Third Edition), Simeon Niel-Asher, Lotus Publishing (August 2014), p.53)
I am qualified to Level 1, so am unfortunately unable to treat people with oedemas that are not caused by operation or injury, or general water retention. If you would like to find out where you can receive treatments for these conditions, or any information in general about MLD, you can visit the MLD UK website: http://www.mlduk.org.uk/. This therapy is not suitable for people undergoing treatment for cancer, those with acute infections, during the first three days of a cold, and those with cardiac decomposition.
Massage Oils and Waxes
Oils are selected according to skin type and each are beneficial for the health in different ways. I usually use a blend of beeswax, almond oil and arnica as the texture is very good, especially for sports and remedial massage. Refined grapeseed oil is good for people with allergies and pregnant clients, and it contains the omega 6 essential fatty acid linoleic acid, which nourishes the skin and can also assist circulation. Jojoba oil, which also contains essential fatty acids, is good for more mature skin as it moisturizes and softens, and its emulsifying properties help to clear the skin’s pores, making it good for greasy skin, too. Apricot oil, often used for face massage, contains the nutritious vitamin B17, and is good for sensitive or dry skin, as is almond oil. I do not use oil for head massage, and whatever I choose, I only use enough to enable me to work into the muscles, so I don’t drown people in it!