October 19, 2013

Massage Up or Down?

At the risk of hearing some strong opinions, or not, I would like to ask the question: is it proper to massage up or down?

I have had many massages, and I am always baffled by the selection. I have had massage up the back, down the back, diagonally and sideways. Does it matter?

Some folks have very fixed ideas on this, particularly teachers who are trying to herd cats (massage students) into some semblance of a class. For every rule to never be broken, however, I find more classes and higher learning invite rules changes with ease.

Personally, I do not enjoy effleurages or neural strokes that go down the arm, although my energetic therapist friends use those to clear energy and swear by it. They seem a little pent up if I ask them not to do that.

I’m happy to offer my palm for some airy, off-skin swirly-dibbles to clear energy, so that seems to keep the peace. But what about those skin riders?


In a discussion, I would avoid answering my own question, but this is a blog and the rules are fluid.

Intent, I think may be the answer. If the intent is Swedish, to move both lymph and blood, then massage upward toward the heart. If the intent is neural, massage down the spine toward the sacrum. If lymphatic, massage in the direction of the lymphatic watershed. If aruveydic, well, then it depends. Well, is that as clear as it gets? 

October 12, 2013

Carpal! Foiled again!

Oh yes, it can be so much fun to be in the soft-tissue massage biz. A new client asked for help with numbness at night in the thumb, forefinger and ring-finger.

As part of the overall massage, I did a bit of cross-fiber, compression and MFR on the pronater and supinator.
We massage therapists know those are the muscles that turn your palms up or down while doing tasks. For instance, if you are typing on a computer, your pronator is pulling your radius bone over the ulna bone – compressing a whole bunch of stuff in the forearm. When it gets too hot and too inflamed, your wrist hurts and/or your first three fingers go numb.
Elementary, to a massage therapist, but for some reason this is often unknown to the client.
The forearm muscles felt like bone, hard, adhesed, starved and chronically contracted. Massage strokes help separate the muscles and tendons, opening the area up to circulation.
Unknown to me at the time, this client had the testing for carpal tunnel syndrome a week earlier. A few days after her massage, she got the results. Her doctor told her she needed surgery.

“I told him I didn’t need to have surgery because I had a massage and my hands are fine now,” she said.

I felt a bit puffed up with such a nice compliment. Most important, though is proof of the power of doing hands-on therapy before invasive solutions.

The medical literature says carpal surgery works in about 30 percent of carpal diagnoses. Why? Most likely because the tests do not specifically confirm carpal tunnel syndrome but other myofascial problems in the forearm, triceps, even the neck.