resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Show Up and Show Respect
I was recently asked about my chiropractic philosophy. My answer surprised my questioner.
Fight Colorectal Cancer With Folic Acid
CRC is the second most common cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. and Canada. Although genetic susceptibility plays a role in the etiology of CRC, dietary factors, including certain vitamins, have also been shown to influence the development of the disease in various studies.
The Static Postural Pelvic Exam
I include a static postural analysis in my evaluation routine whether you are a patient in pain or an elite-sport athlete in training. In my day-to-day practice, I require patients to stand still while I "just look" at them.
AWB Makes a Difference in the Yucatan
We are in the sleepy town of Izamal, located about an hour from the Merida airport where our group arrived last night. Later that morning, on a bus winding through the dusty roads of the Yucatan, fourteen acupuncturists, two facilitators from AWB and two tour guides make their way to the small rustic town of Popola.
The Conscious Evolution of Healing: Importance of Opening the Sensory Portals in Classical Chinese Medicine
The Chinese medical classics are not just clinical guides. They give advice; ways we can awaken more fully into conscious awareness.
The App Advantage: Get More for Less
You may have noticed the list of "app-exclusive" articles in the directory on the front page of the print issue and in the Table of Contents on page 4. You can't find these articles in print or even in our online archives.
Helping to Create the Healthiest Generation
The imperative to create the "Healthiest Generation by 2030," envisioned by the American Public Health Association (APHA), was in full force at the APHA's 142nd Annual Meeting held in New Orleans from November 15-19, 2014.
Three for One: The Cervical Distraction Test
Taking the time to do an exam is important, but it is time spent. The exam serves as a way to physically validate your clinical impression following a history and clinical consultation.
How to Use Online Video as a Tool to Market Your Practice
Health care practitioners, including chiropractors, should consider online videos as a key element of their Internet marketing strategy. In the next three years, videos are expected to account for nearly 70 percent of all consumer online traffic, according to Cisco.
The Way of Zen Performance Enhancement
Working with elite athletes and implementing various techniques to keep athletes focused and at their optimal performance for a sustained period of time includes incorporating various meditation techniques that counterbalance their sport-specific physical and mental demands, which is an important element of success throughout the years.
Happy New Year 2015 Gong Hoy Fat Choi
Welcome to the year of the sheep! We begin a new year guided by the sign of a quietly and creatively organized animal.
Acupuncture and its Place in the Integrative Healthcare Practice: The Need to Move from Modality to Profession
Acupuncture and oriental medicine (AOM) has grown and flourished from its inception thousands of years ago in China. In surrounding regions of Asia, AOM developed as a response to differing cultural, pathological, health and wellness care needs.
I Felt it in My Fingers First
I'm not afraid to say it. Massage therapists make better acupuncturists. I'll tell you how I know, but first I have a question: What do a microcurrent device, a laser and a hippie massage therapist have in common?
Professionalism and Evidence-Based Health Care
Today's chiropractors are facing a conundrum with the Affordable Care Act and its health care reform requirements, including evidence-based practice and health technology assessment.
Movement Assessments: The DC's Sphygmomanometer
I think back to when I was going through chiropractic school outpatient clinic. I was embarrassed to have my family and friends come in for treatment because initial evaluations took three hours to complete.
Age and Fertility: Why We Should Worry Less About Age and More About Overall Health
Recently, on one of the acupuncture alumni forums, the topic of age and fertility came up when a practitioner posted a question regarding a patient that was about to turn 40-years-old.
Trouble Down Under: San Zhen Therapy for Lower Jiao Issues
In the last several columns, I have discussed many clinical options for utilizing San Zhen or Three Needle Therapy. In this installment, I will continue this trend and discuss several foundational patterns which can be found in several very common clinical presentations.
We Get Letters & Email
Rethinking Our Approach to Immunization; Coming Together for the Good of Our Patients.
Animal Acupuncture Gaining in Popularity
We have just finished the year of the fire hoarse and now it is time to spend some time alone, daydreaming and thinking outside the box in terms of where our profession is headed. The sheep person is well organized and creative so this should not be difficult to do.
Ringing in the Billing New Year
What are the new modifiers that replace modifier 59? Will they allow doctors of chiropractic to be paid for 97140, manual therapy, when done with chiropractic manipulation?
Environmental Toxins: Cause of Modern Illness, Part 2
In Part I of this article, we detailed the variety of environmental toxins assaulting our bodies. These include pesticides and herbicides; plastics; preservatives; cosmetics; gasoline additives, solvents and glues; and heavy metals.
Taking the Freeze Out of Adhesive Capsulitis
Adhesive capsulitis or "frozen shoulder" is a relatively common condition resulting in severe shoulder pain and global loss of glenohumeral joint range of motion. Incidence of the condition is approximately 3 percent in the general population.
Two for One: The Cervical Distraction Test
In today's healthcare system, diagnoses and treatment plans follow a western medical model - especially if you work with attorneys or insurance companies.
Right Back Where We Started?
More than 25 years after Judge Susan Getzendanner issued her historic opinion in the Wilk v AMA anti-trust case, evidence suggests that despite increasing collaboration between doctors of chiropractic and their allopathic medical counterparts, when it comes to organized medicine, we may be right back where we started.
Chiropractic Research in Review
Occupational LBP in Primary- and High-School Teachers; Treating MVA Complications With Chiropractic Care; Neck Pain: Immediate Effects of Active Scapular Correction; Taping Benefits Stride, Step Length in Fatigued Runners.
June 14, 2004
Massage Technique: Can Yours Withstand the Test of Research?
By Gregory T. Lawton, DN, DC
The massage profession is represented by a rich diversity of massage techniques that are the product of the ideas, concepts and theories of massage practitioners over many decades and centuries.After years of practicing in the shadows of health care, massage therapy and other forms of traditional health care, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, are gaining wide and enthusiastic acceptance within the public and professional arena.
The massage profession is composed of many different systems of therapy and practice. Some massage systems are strictly esoteric and others label themselves as therapeutic, sports, orthopedic, clinical or medical. Massage will always be valued and appreciated for its nurturing and comforting effects on the human body, mind and spirit. It is in the area of clinical claims for effectiveness in the treatment of human disease and pathology that massage will have to prove its claims of safety and efficacy, and pay its dues in order to gain the respect of the public and other health care professions. One of the stepping stones to this respect and acceptance is research.
Many massage therapists would be surprised to find out that a great deal of research on massage therapy and it effects in areas that directly relate to the practice of massage, has already been completed and is easily available. There is, indeed, a vast body of this research already in existence. Research has been performed on specific massage techniques and their effectiveness, and research has been performed that strongly relates to the practice of massage. This includes research in the fields of chiropractic, manual medicine, biomechanics, physical and occupational therapy, osteopathy and psychology. This research is available in many professional journals, on the Internet and in books written for physicians and professional members of the allied medical community. Very little of this research has found its way into the massage community. Much of the research that has been presented to the massage community is often outdated, or has, unfortunately, been misinterpreted.
It is true that more research needs to be performed and that this research needs to be directed at the specific techniques and methods used by well-trained practicing senior massage therapists. Research that has been performed in the U.S. has been particularly poor. Techniques that are studied are often not performed by a trained massage therapist or the techniques that are used are too general and non-specific. This situation is, however, not true of the worldwide research community, and excellent studies have been performed in Europe and specifically in the Scandinavian counties. How is your Swedish?
Why do we need research? Well maybe you don't. In Sweden, for example, research needs to be performed on any system or technique that will be used to treat human pathology or disease, and that will be covered by its national health care system. Incidentally, the Swedish government will pay for the research; if the result is positive, it will pay for the massage treatment. If you don't practice clinical, medical, orthopedic, or sports massage, but rather practice from a nonclinical approach, you probably don't see what all the fuss is about. Most countries that have a long tradition of providing access to massage therapy as a treatment for human disease have established a basic ethical standard of care. That standard is based on research and proven effectiveness.
This article is written about systems and forms of massage therapy that lay direct claim to treating human disease and disorders. Within the many and diverse systems and forms that claim this effect, there are two distinct divisions that classify basic massage techniques:
Massage has a long history of empirical evidence that supports its claims to achieving direct physical effects in the body's connective tissue structures. This claim is also supported by decades of research that comes out of several related manual therapy disciplines. Any practicing massage therapist can easily tell you about the effectiveness of massage therapy for a wide array of physical conditions and disorders. Ongoing research and study will assist the practicing massage therapist in understanding which techniques are the most effective in the treatment of specific musculoskeletal conditions. Research will help us write better massage textbooks and train better massage therapists for the future.
Recent research and study that has specifically investigated common massage techniques such as compression, stroking, kneading, and percussion has demonstrated the following:
The direct effects of massage establishes massage therapy as facilitating many very beneficial effects on pain management and reduction, and in the promotion of connective tissue healing following trauma or injury. If this was all we knew about the beneficial effects of massage it would be enough, but there is much more.
Massage therapy used in clinical, medical, orthopedic, and sports therapy aspires to a higher research standard than has been the norm in the general massage field. Over the last 50 years of massage history massage therapists, manual therapists, osteopaths, and chiropractors have postulated a large array of physiological theories regarding how the body works and particularly how it responds to manual stimulation. In any field some of these ideas are good, and some are bad. Some have been researched, but many have not, at least not in any generally accepted sense. Some of these ideas, concepts, and theories have been disproved. A large number of these erroneous ideas, concepts, and theories are a common component of current massage education and practice. Some of the proponents of these erroneous theoretical systems of massage question the need for massage research while at the same time laying claim to flawed research upon which they have built their incorrect concepts based on non physiological processes in the body.
There are several commonly promoted and widely accepted systems of massage technique that are based on the theory of reflex control of muscle activity by a golgi tendon organ (GTO) as a proprioceptor. First of all the word proprioceptor, which repeatedly appears in most massage textbooks and articles on massage has not been an accepted scientific term since the early 1900's. The correct word is mechanoreceptor and the mechanoreceptors include the GTO, muscle spindles, and other joint and tissue receptors. The entire theory of the GTO as having peripheral motor control over muscle activity is an erroneous concept and so any massage system or technique that is based on this understanding either doesn't work, or doesn't work as claimed.
Some massage therapists and promoters of the GTO theories of reflex control over muscle activity confuse whether the GTO is stimulated by stretch or contraction, and in several massage books they vascillate between stretch and contraction. Actually the GTO is a very excellent reporter of dynamic contraction in muscle tissue, but alas it only reports, it does not control. The control mechanisms are very complex and they are located in the central nervous system (CNS), the brain is the boss not the GTO. This process is called proprioception and it is a part of the somatosensory system which is managed by the brain. Additionally, the GTO is only one of the varied biological sensors that reports information on connective tissue tension and position. All of these mechanoreceptors work together to provide the CNS with the information that it needs.
One popular author of the erroneous GTO theory actually states in his book that tension in the muscle will cause the GTO to order cessation of muscle activity. What a surprise to my friends who are bodybuilders and powerlifters. I guess the next time that I bench press 200 pounds I better be careful, because my GTO's will measure the increased muscle tension and cause cessation of the activity. I will also be in trouble the next time I go rock climbing in Sedona, imagine what will happen to me as I am hanging from my finger tips from a rock ledge and my GTO's decide to stop my muscles from contracting. Obviously, central motor control of muscle activity is a much more powerful mechanism than the perpherial receptors, like the GTO's.
The next step in these erroneous and non physiological (can we say physiologically incorrect?) theories is the idea that in a few minutes of treatment time, by resisting patient intentional movement (isometric contraction) or by only partial resisting movement (isotonic contraction) the therapist can "reset" the "proprioceptors" (wrong word) . There are several massage systems, including Muscle Energy Technique, that use this theoretical approach to joint rehabilitation therapy, none of which have been found to work by the non physiological processes that they claim. There are several important basic reasons for this:
Contained with these erroneous theories of physiological function is the idea that the tendon reflex, peripheral "proprioceptors" (mechanoreceptors), control a protective mechanism against over stretching of a muscle. Actually the protective mechanism that protects against over stretching is pain, or the nociceptors. Relaxed, pain free, muscles can be stretched extensively without producing a protective contraction. Consider yoga! If the "proprioceptor" theory of protective inhibition was correct then the peripherally mediated contraction would produce increased strain in the muscle and tendon and result in injury to the tissue.
If these ideas, concepts, and theories don't work in real life, how are they going to work on the treatment table?
This information, the research and studies, is a common and readily available part of the scientific research of physiology, neurology, and occupational therapy. Much of the current information on learning behaviors in connective tissue is the result of collaboration between sociologists and occupational therapists. The Scandinavian manual therapists and researchers in the field of manual medicine have used this information to guide their use of appropriate massage technique. Much of this research regarding the GTO and tendon reflex has been available in the field for the last 20 years. It probably would not be incorrect to suggest that well over 90 percent of the massage therapists currently in training, and we train about 47,000 massage therapists per year, are still being taught these non physiological and erroneous models of body function and therapy. This training has in effect become "massage dogma". Unfortunately, many massage therapists now have to "unlearn" much of what they have come to accept as being true about the relationship of body physiology and neurology as applied to massage technique. These erroneous concepts can be very hard to dislodge once they have become embedded in the minds and practices of massage therapists. Many massage therapists have received this kind of information and training as "advanced certification".
Massage techniques that have been shown to work effectively in the stimulation of mechanoreceptors and neurological learning processes include:
The above techniques have been found in studies to be effective in the general treatment of conditions of muscle spasm and increased motor tone. These techniques are especially effective in the treatment of abnormal neurological conditions that have resulted from injury or damage to the central nervous system, such as post stroke. These techniques, that involve gentle passive repetitive joint movement and light stroking, compression or percussion, reduce abnormal motor tone in muscle and assist the patient in acquiring new skills in muscle relaxation and utilization. These techniques do not reestablish the neurological norm. The norm has been lost and will not be reestablished. What does occur is the development of coping mechanisms, while they are not normal, they do become functional behaviors.
The massage therapist who is using myofasical release technique combined with muscle energy technique on a post stroke patient for the purposes of breaking down muscle contraction and reflexively relaxing spastic muscle, is doing more harm than good. The myofascial release technique overstimulates tissue receptors and provokes the pain receptors (nociceptors). This results in hypersensitivity and increased pain and spasticity in the affected body region. Subjecting the patient to exercises that involve active contraction against the therapist's resistance only increases muscle contraction and damage. The correct methods of therapy for patients with abnormal CNS conditions involves:
Another issue that many massage therapists are confused about is the definition of muscle tone and motor tone. Most massage textbooks and schools teach that there is a "resting muscle tone" or that "abnormal" muscle tone results from neurological activity or stimulation. This is not correct. Muscle tone is simply muscle bulk, and nothing more. Muscle tone is fluid in the muscle and the connective tissue that composes the muscle. It is like holding a raw chicken breast in your hand. When the muscle is placed in a completely relaxed position and the therapist palpates the muscle, they are palpating muscle bulk. The tension or resistance in the relaxed muscle can change with connective tissue infiltration such as fibrosis or with increased fluid build up, say after exercise or during inflammation due to injury of the muscle. Motor tone is a result of neurological or motor neuron stimulation to the muscle. Motor tone varies, increases or decreases in direct relationship to motor neuron activity, normal or abnormal. A resting or relaxed muscle is "neurologically silent" and there is no resting motor tone in normal circumstances.
Many massage therapists fail to place a muscle in a completely relaxed, neutral, or "folded" position and they often attempt to evaluate "muscle tone" in a contracted or eccentrically contracted state. Contracted muscle is neurologically active and does have motor tone. An example of this is a patient placed supine on the massage table with their arms hanging freely over the sides of the table. The therapist then palpates the eccentrically contracted posterior shoulder muscles. The therapist is actually palpating active motor tone, not resting muscle tone. They are palpating active muscle contraction and not muscle bulk or connective tissue and fluid accumulation. This improperly applied procedure of course results in erroneous information regarding muscle tightness and shortness and will most likely lead to improper and unnecessary treatment. Additionally, it is very difficult to treat and to relax a muscle that is being treated while it is in a state of active contraction due to improper positioning on the table.
The facts, ideas and concepts in this article are presented for the purpose of assisting the practicing massage therapist or massage instructor in understanding the science behind the art of massage. Many massage therapists and massage educators need to update their training and practice skills to include new understandings about how the body functions and how massage technique might more effectively assist the therapist in their role of patient treatment and care. Knowledge, and the ongoing search for it, is a process and not an event. Just as some massage theories and techniques are now known to be outdated or ineffective, new findings have presented new methods and techniques, and undoubtedly this process of change and discovery will continue. Rather than being distressed or frightened by this vital process of growth, the massage therapist should welcome it and the benefits that it will bring to their practice of massage and their ability to more effectively serve the health care needs of their patients.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.