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  • Olivia Osborn

What is Medical Massage?


What is medical massage? Who can benefit from it?

Medical massage is a unique form of holistic therapy. Its objective is to address specific problems that other healthcare professionals have diagnosed. Massage therapists do not diagnose. Rather, massage therapists can help with treatment by having knowledge of the pathologies presented and the expertise to treat them. Often, clients that seek out medical massage are being referred for treatment of musculoskeletal injuries or conditions. Such conditions include whiplash, arthritis, pain from disc herniation and/or degenerative changes, and sprains/strains. By working collaboratively with other health professionals, such as medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, etc., massage therapists can help to restore the health of the tissue and rehabilitate the presenting condition.

The practice of medical massage can also be utilized in long-term management of chronic conditions. Clients affected by conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and lupus can benefit from massage therapy. While it is not a cure-all, it can be integral in a long-term management plan to ensure the client’s most comfortable and highest quality life possible.

 

What are the unique features of medical massage?

What makes medical massage unique is treatment according to a specific objective. During the intake process, as occurs with all massages, the therapist and client discuss the client’s overall health history. Then, the therapist and client identify the specific health issue for which the client is being referred, and set a goal for treatment with this issue in mind. For example, for a client presenting with a strained muscle, the goal may be to reduce his or her pain by a certain percentage within a given amount of time. The therapist then will utilize different modalities, depending on speciality and necessity, to address the client’s concern and achieve the set goal. The goal may have to be altered depending on the client’s response to treatment and other factors, but the objective is always to reduce the client's pain, assist in their healing, and encourage them to keep striving for that set goal.

 

Medical massage and body/mind connection

As an LMT with a background in psychology, I want to emphasize the importance of massage therapy in maintaining mental health and managing mental health conditions. Mental and physical health are intertwined. Holding patterns of muscles can mimic emotional states. For example, when in a stressful situation, people tend to tense the muscles in their shoulders, neck, and jaw. When this becomes a pattern, it results in muscle tension and pain that is difficult to relieve. For those with conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc., these patterns tend to be more persistent. Beyond the muscles, mental health conditions such as anxiety leave us stuck in “fight or flight.” In other words, affected individuals’ sympathetic nervous systems are constantly active. Massage therapy stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the body to “rest and digest.” It is in this state that the body digests food and repairs any damage to cells or tissues.

Not only can massage therapy break the physical holding patterns associated with negative thoughts/emotions, but it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing our body to repair itself and rest.

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