Massage techniques for musculoskeletal problems

Clients requesting massage frequently complain of pain or stiffness in localised areas of the body, most commonly in the back muscles and the posterior muscles of the neck. Problems may be identified during assessment or when the hands move over the part during a general body massage: these will require further investigation. When the area is palpated, changes may be detected in the tissues that indicate underlying abnormalities of the skin, connective tissue and underlying muscles.

The following changes may be found:

^ Muscles may feel hard and tight, indicating increased tension or shortening.

^ Tissues may feel thick and unyielding with little or no pliability or flexibility.

^ Areas may be tender, painful or hypersensitive to touch, indicating neural (nerve) involvement.

^ Fibrous bands, nodules or points of extreme irritability (trigger points) may be felt as the hands move over the part.

A general massage will promote relaxation of these tissues, but deeper and more specific techniques are required to identify the problems and bring about improvement.

The individual components of the musculo-skeletal system must function normally in order to produce full-range, pain-free movement, and any problems or changes in one part will affect the others.

The tissues involved will include:

the muscles (muscular), which produce movement; the bones onto which the muscles attach, and the joints where movement occurs (skeletal); the connective tissue (fascia), which connects and separates other tissues; the blood and lymphatic vessels of the area, which deliver nutrients and oxygen and remove the waste products of metabolism (metabolites); and also the nerves (neuro), that is, the sensory nerves that transmit sensory stimuli to the brain, and motor nerves that transmit impulses from the brain to the muscles to initiate movement and control tension. Under normal stress-free conditions the CNS maintains a level of muscle tone that allows normal pain-free movement. Abnormalities such as adhesions entrap nerves and disturb the normal neurological activity between the central nervous system and the musculo-skeletal system, which will affect muscle tone and normal function.

Stress in any one part of the system will affect all the other adjacent parts as they are all interdependent. Neuromuscular techniques aim to normalise the tissues and restore normal neurological control.

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