Massage for pain relief – but not as you know it
Michelle here, the resident, pain relieving, muscle stretching, massage therapist and eternal student (or so it feels!) here at Health Rediscovered in the centre of Glasgow. I am so very grateful to be writing this blog on the approach into my fifth and FINAL year of my Osteopathy degree.
Over the years I have gradually built on my existing massage skills and have found that with every semester passed I have gained more and more wonderful tools in my ever expanding osteopathic tool belt.
I love that the standard expected of being an osteopath means it is essential to have an outstanding level of understanding of how the body works and how dysfunction in somewhere such as your lower back isn’t necessarily where the issue has come from. It really is like being a body detective, figuring out where the problem started and working to help get the body back to some sort of comfort and free /reduce your pain.
In the earlier years of my degree, I began to expand upon my earlier learning of anatomy and physiology, digging deeper into all the structures that make us who we are. The muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, nerves, and fascia still truly fascinate me, and it is one of my favourite parts of my job. Everyone is different and unique in their own way.
Initially I trained in Swedish Massage, which involves strokes called effleurage, petrissage, kneading etc, but as time and knowledge has progressed I have slowly incorporated the soft tissue therapy that was the basics of our osteopathic training.
Soft Tissue Therapy aka massage!
Soft tissue therapy aims to help reduce muscular or skeletal pain that you may have. It works to break down tension within the fibres of the tissues.
Some of the techniques involved are:
- Cross fibre- Working against the natural lines of the muscle
- Longitudinal – as it suggests working along the muscle itself to stretch it and lengthen it out
- Inhibition – A targeted trigger point is pressed upon and as the muscle relaxes the pressure is adjusted.
All the techniques mentioned are applied in a much slower manner than I was used to and are more focused on releasing and stretching out the tension in the fibres. As I progressed to 2nd year, I began using more osteopathic techniques beginning with muscle energy.
Muscle Energy Technique for Pain Relief
Muscle Energy Technique (MET) use the muscles own energy by gently contracting the muscles on the one side e.g., the triceps to allow the muscles on the opposite e.g., the bicep to relax. The muscle is then stretched out and sets a new length for the muscle that was previously short and restricted. This technique is one of my favourites and it really does get instant results that the patient can feel, it really works to give better range of movement and thus reducing pain. Such a clever yet simple technique.
Alongside MET I also began to use articulation. Osteopathic articulation focuses on mobilisation and manipulation of the joints of the body. The joint, for example, the hip is moved passively(you get to relax here!) through its range of motion (all the ways the hip can move) forward, backwards etc. If any of the range is restricted or stuck the focus is then to improve this by moving the hip, stretching it out and increasing the overall flexibility of the joint. Articulation is usually added alongside the MET to give the joint a much better range of movement, reduce the pain levels and improve overall feeling in the hip/joint.
High velocity low amplitude thrust
3rd year for me was the year I looked forward to most, we began to learn how to perform a high velocity low amplitude thrust(HVLA) – Also known as ‘’cracking the joint’’ or joint manipulation/cavitation. I can still remember when I first started the course how much I looked forward to this and feeling how the ‘crack’ felt when I had this done to me. I am sure for some this technique can be quite daunting, some videos online can make this look quite scary and can put people off.
I want to assure you that this is not the case. If the joint is restricted and not moving the aim of the HVLA is to merely move it approximately 2/3 degrees further to push it past the restriction and open the joint up. The force applied should be minimal and again not what you may have seen online. If this is done correctly is should be gentle and be of minimal discomfort. The release that is felt is also relatively instantly. When combined with the articulation of the joint, stretching the muscles around the joint and soft tissue to break down any tension from the muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the joint it can work beautifully together to provide a really great treatment and is hugely effective and beneficial to YOU.. and after all thats what its all about – using all these different techniques to improve the range of motion, blood flow, lymphatic movement and generally get you free from pain.
What do I get when I work with Michelle
A treatment with me is tailored to you as my patient using all the aforementioned techniques. I will ask lots of questions when we first meet to find out how the injury/complaint that you have has happened, perform a physical assessment and work out a treatment plan using all the above techniques combining them specifically to what you need to maximise the treatment and get you the best outcome possible.