In the span of the last few decades, health care professionals including chiropractors, massage therapists, and physicians are opting for cross-functional methods of treatment for pain and injury. Massage therapists are integrating their expertise and skills with other professionals. This change is visible in the creation of orthopaedic massage that is now enabling practitioners to boost their effectiveness.
The orthopaedic massage consists of precise techniques to assess, understand, and treat musculoskeletal pain and injury. These methods have been developed based on the principles of an old orthopaedic medicine developed by Dr James Cyriax. Orthopaedic massage therapy is more than a hand- on therapy; there are specific exercises, manipulation performed by a chiropractor or therapy sessions with a teacher of the Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais Method. If you want to learn more then click here.
Five Things that Massage Therapists should remember for orthopaedic massage therapy
1. Muscles are not always the cause of pain and injury
In massage therapy, there is often a lot of focus laid on muscles. Therefore, every time a patient experiences pain, therapists attribute it to a muscle spasm or injured muscle tissue. But, muscle spasms occur because of injury to some other part of the body. They are just protective mechanisms and do not cause pain for long because muscles heal quickly. However, massage therapists must realize that it is often the injured tendons or ligaments that are a major cause of musculoskeletal pain because they heal slowly. Age also contributes to joint damage and pain. Injuries to the fascia also result in chronic pain. Massage therapists must understand muscle anatomy and function to perform orthopaedic massages.
2. There is more than one way to heal an injured tissue
Nutrition and emotional stress play an important role in healing musculoskeletal injuries. Body alignment and exercise regimes also help in healing. Massage helps by increasing the blood circulation to the injured tissues. But apart from circulation, eliminating adhesive scar tissue also eradicates pain. When injuries do not heal properly they form scar tissues that lead to chronic pain. This weakened scar tissue is susceptible to tearing, again and again, thus stimulating pain. Massage therapists have to learn how to break this cycle of pain by learning to eliminate scar tissue and to prevent reformation of this tissue. This will provide clients with greater and long-lasting relief.
3. An injury does not always have to be where the pain is
Sometimes the location of a patient’s pain is often misleading. Pain is sometimes “referred” from the source of injury to other parts of the body. Hence, a detailed understanding of referred pain is required by therapists. For example, pain that is felt only in the upper arm may have been caused by an injured shoulder tendon. It is important for therapists to note a few things about referred pain:
- For example, pain can be referred from the neck down to the wrist but not from the wrist up to the neck.
- Pain can never refer from the left side of the body to the right side or vice-versa. Pain felt in both sides of the body implies there are two injuries – one on each side.
- A distance of the referred pain is proportional to the severity of pain
- Pain is always referred within the same dermatome
4. Pain caused by active body movements does not always describe the injury accurately
Orthopaedic massage therapy involves understanding the three different types of body movements: passive, resisted, and active. When determining the location of an injury, active movements prove to be the most unreliable. Passive and resisted tests prove more useful in orthopaedic massage therapy.
5. Trigger points cannot always help explain the causes of musculoskeletal pain
There are many theories linking trigger points to understanding the causes of musculoskeletal pain and orthopaedic medicine specialists have a different view. But further research is needed in this area.
There are a number of massage therapy programs, which allow students to become professional massage therapists. Students learn about basic massage techniques, practically and theoretically. A solid understanding is provided in these recognized programs and this helps massage therapists to interact more effectively with other health care professionals.