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  • Writer's pictureKelly Kempter

How to be a Connoisseur of Bodywork

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

Recently I was asked to blog about the different types of bodywork available in my community. Typically massage therapists incorporate many modalities into a single session but it can be helpful to have some familiarity with individual techniques in order to determine what might be best for your body at any given time. Here is a brief description of some common types of bodywork:

Asian Healing Modalities:

Thai Massage: Described as "lazy man's yoga", this powerful technique combines the concepts of both acupressure and yoga. Deep compression and stretching techniques are combined. The session is performed on a floor mat and through the client's clothes. Thai-Yoga Massage releases blocked energy and stimulates the body's innate healing potential, thus restoring balance, health and harmony.

Shiatsu: Shiatsu, meaning "finger pressure", is a Japanese healing art deeply rooted in the philosophy and practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This form of acupressure is aimed at balancing qi, the essential life force of the body. Qi flows throughout the body within a system of defined channels, known as meridians. In Shiatsu, the therapist uses his or her body weight to apply pressure to specific points along the meridians. Through manual pressure, joint mobilization and stretching techniques the energy flowing in the meridians is affected, and balance is restored to the body. By ensuring healthy flow of qi through the meridians, Shiatsu addresses the health of your entire system.

Myofascial Release: Myofascial release can employ a variety of techniques to equalize muscle and fascial tension throughout the body. By utilizing sustained pressure into restricted areas, range of motion is restored and pain is reduced. Fascial work is done without the use of oil. Freeing the fascial fabric, along with re-integration of movement patterns, allows the body to maintain proper positioning over time. This new posture becomes part of who you are, not something you have to work at or see a practitioner to maintain.

Swedish Massage: Swedish massage is widely known for its soothing influence on the body and mind. A variety of strokes such as gliding, kneading, stretching, compression, vibration, joint movement, rocking and friction are performed with the aid of lotion for a deeply relaxing and restorative experience. Swedish Massage is particularly stimulating to the circulatory and lymphatic systems, increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body, and aiding in the elimination of excess fluid and waste products.

Sports Massage: Sports massage employs a variety of techniques which are designed to address the special requirements of the athlete. The focus can be preventive or rehabilitative, with the ultimate goal being to improve the body mechanics and performance of the athlete. If an injury is present, massage can shorten healing time and help prevent complications from the involvement of surrounding structures. Benefits of receiving sports massage include enhanced circulation, improved range of motion, increased muscle balance, and development of efficient movement patterns. Additionally, sports massage techniques reduce pain, ischemia (lack of blood), adhesions, and excess tension, as well as help to eliminate lactic acid build up in the muscles.

Energy Balancing: We are all bioenergetic bodies with universal energy, or qi, flowing throughout our bodies. A blockage in the flow of qi creates an energetic imbalance in our system and makes us susceptible to illness. A variety of energetic healing and holding techniques can be employed to gently restore harmony and relieve distress in the body.

Somatic Therapies: Somatic therapies can include a wide range of techniques used to reestablish healthy proprioception in chronically tightened muscles.

These techniques draw from various traditions of somatic therapy and employ the use of passive movements, active resisted movements and sustained pressure. The goal of these methods is to interrupt unchecked neurological transmissions from the brain which result in a constant state of hypertension in muscle fibers.

Neuromuscular Therapy: Neuromuscular Therapy is a system that focuses on relief of pain. Through soft tissue manipulation and a specific rehabilitation protocol, the function of joints, muscles, and the biomechanics of the body are improved, healing time is shortened, and pain is reduced. The therapist assesses various structures of the body for postural distortions and biomechanical dysfunction. Trigger points and muscle spasms are systematically located and deactivated through the use of inhibitory pressure, followed by stretching or strengthening of the involved muscles.

Deep Tissue Massage: Typically this includes the use of multiple modalities to affect change in the body. Muscle stripping, myofascial techniques, neuromuscular therapy, sports massage, trigger point therapy and other techniques may be employed. As the name implies, this work is usually deeper in nature. Deep tissue massage work will vary tremendously depending on the therapist's training, ideology, and ability to use deep pressure.

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