Soft tissue work is well known as an effective, complementary treatment in alternative and holistic wellness avenues. In a 2017 study performed by the AMTA, 43% of individuals surveyed stated their primary reason for seeking Massage Therapy / Manual Therapy was for medical purposes.
Specifically, medical reasons included pain relief, soreness, stiffness or spasms, injury recovery and rehabilitation, migraines, prevention of injury, pregnancy or pre-natal, and to improve their quality of life and general well-being.
As various Health Care Providers and Doctors are embracing the value of soft tissue therapy as a legitimate and beneficial option to address health concerns the need for well educated and highly skilled Massage Therapists is growing.
Soft Tissue therapy as an addition to your health care maintenance is highly advisable. Whether you choose Massage Therapy or Manual Therapy, or both, as your go-to is going to be an entirely individual experience.
Manual Therapy vs Massage Therapy
Manual Therapy works specifically with the Musculoskeletal System which provides your support, stability, and movement of your body. Muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and fascia are the key structures involved.
And yet modern Pain Science has shown that we can not force change upon these structures.
Our CNS downregulates or decreases its protective instincts, creating a parasympathetic state, when it appreciates the information we are supplying it with.
Assessing the CNS and working with the movements of the body, manual therapy promotes the body’s innate healing power by nourishing the muscle tissue, increasing joint space and range of motion, increasing nutrients and oxygen, and decreasing nerve irritability or compression.
Slow, noninvasive, applications of manual therapy allow your nervous system to feel safe and secure.
Safety is one of the foundations of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Creating a safe space and applying a safe touch fulfills this need and allows us to work more effectively.
Is manual therapy the same thing as massage therapy?
Massage Therapy generally brings to mind full body, therapeutic relaxation work. Slow fluid massage is beneficial for relieving tension and reducing stress by promoting a parasympathetic response in the body. It calms the system down.
Or maybe it simply forces us to be still, present in the moment, focused on our health and healing, and in turn diffuses the chaos to a manageable state.
Manual Therapy focuses on specific areas and localized application. It treats areas that you are acutely aware of, familiar with, and that directly correlate with your discomfort and movement restrictions.
No Naked Massage
Manual Therapy / Massage Therapy in relation to my practice, is applied very specifically. All sessions include some form of manual therapy and are done fully clothed. I target areas that have been indicated through manual muscle testing to have probable hypersensitive nerve activity.
Using these methods in this manner accelerates the healing required for receptor dysfunctions and promotes healthy tissue. It effectively desensitizes the area so that the nervous system no longer views it as requiring protection from real and perceived threats from past traumas.
The clients I see that would benefit from traditional therapeutic massage get referred to other skilled practitioners. Ask me for a referral if my form of therapy is not what you are seeking.
A profession divided…
If you keep up with any health news you’ve probably heard the debates of the effectiveness of Manual Therapy and Massage Therapy.
“It doesn’t work!”
“It promotes nocebo!”
“It promotes placebo!”
Everybody wants to argue about the effectiveness of soft tissue work. Some of the Massage Profession would do much better in their arguments if they kept up with the research available. And to be Devil’s Advocate, some of the Scientific Community would do better to understand that the human being is more complex than we know so results will never be able to be black and white.
At this point in time I find that the safest thing to acknowledge is that we don’t know precisely how or why it works. However, understanding how the nervous system perceives touch definitely allows us to have better insight than most. This is WHY education is a crucial element within my practice and leads to a more complete recovery strategy.