Remedial Massage techniques

I thought that it would be nice to explain a little about some of the techniques that I use, so that they don't come as a surprise!

Just as a tradespeople have a number of tools in their toolboxes, so too do remedial masseurs have a wide variety of tools in their armamentariam. Some of these are:

  • Counterstrain
  • Myofascial release
  • Craniosacral therapy
  • PNF Stretching to improve range of motion
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Myopractic (a variation of Bowen)
  • Deep tissue / sports massage
  • Cross fibre friction
  • Swedish Massage
  • Neck, back and shoulder massages
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage to ease swelling
  • Acupressure techniques based on the Chinese approach to the Meridians
  • Reflexology - foot massage
  • Muscle Energy Technique - used to correct scoliosis for example
  • Counterstrain

    This method is sometimes referred to as Strain and Counterstrain and sometimes as Fold and Hold. The principle behind this method is to place a muscle into a shortened position, without the muscle doing any of the work. In other words, the practitioner moves a limb or the head of the client in order to place the selected muscle into a shortened position. When a muscle finds itself in a shortened position after getting a free ride, it has a bit of a panic attack, trying to work out how to react to an unusual situation. Normally a muscle has to pull hard to get into a shortened position. After about 90 seconds, the muscle decides to put it into the too hard basket and simply relaxes.

    The body tries to protect itself from public enemy number one - and that is YOU!! When you abuse your body via accident, sporting injury, bad posture, repetitive strain etc, the body tries to get you to refrain from continuing this pattern of behaviour. It does so by tightening the muscles, and giving you aches and pains and trigger points, thereby giving you a constant reminder not to abuse this muscle further. Counterstrain is a technique of using a bit of finesse to convince the body to forgive and forget and wipe the slate clean.

    What I like about counterstrain is that it is a pain free technique, ie it can free up trigger points without causing discomfort. It doesn't work with everyone, and sometimes you have to repeat the technique more than once. However, when it works, it can do so in a spectacular manner. I recall a motorcyclist who came to see me at the beach. He had hurt his neck in a fall a year before and had problems (in the form of pain) turning his head, and twisted his torso to look left rather than turning his head. By using Counterstrain for the Levator Scapulae muscle half a dozen times, I was able to turn his head a little further each time before he experienced pain. At the end of half an hour he was able to turn his head fully to the left without pain.

    To this day, I find that Counterstrain is a favourite of mine for the levator scapulae, simply because so many people have pain in the trigger points or at the attachment of the muscle to the scapula.

    I would like to acknowledge Sue Rollason, TAFE lecturer and MLD specialist, for teaching me this great technique.


    Myofascial release

    Fancy name, but what does it mean??

    Myofascial means related to muscles (myo) and fascia. I like to think of Fascia as the gladwrap of the body, wrapping around all the individual muscle fibres, around the muscles, separating muscles so they can glide past each other and so on. Fascia has properties of both elastic and plastic. If given a quick stretch, fascia acts like elastic and returns to its starting position. However, if you give it a gentle, sustained stretch, it becomes more like heated plastic, a bit pliable and stretchable. This technique requires patience, as each myofascial hold takes anywhere from two to five minutes to get the desired result.

    I would like to thank Subhadra Gerard for his wonderful course at the Perth Academy of Natural Therapies, and Rodney Hunt for his fabulous weekend courses.


    Craniosacral therapy

    I don't get the opportunity to use these techniques as often as I would like, basically because most people have never heard of or experienced craniosacral therapy before. It is a very, VERY gentle technique using about 5gm of pressure to allow the cranial bones to realign themselves. You may not realise it, but the central nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord down to the sacrum (the triangular bone in the end of the spine that sits in the hip), has its own circulation system, pumping cerebrospinal fluid around the nerves and brain as a source of nutrients and a form of cushioning / protection.

    The following is a quote from Karol A. Andrew:

    "CST is a gentle, osteopathic technique that balances tension patterns in the body. Fascia is an extensive network of connective tissue that weaves throughout the body. It separates the body cavities, covers all the organs, separates the muscle layers, covers the brain and spinal cord, all the nerves, blood vessels and even the bones.

    Think about when you put a sheet on a bed. You pull on one corner of the sheet and can see tension across to the other side of the mattress.

    Likewise, when you have an injury, surgery, etc., this creates a tension pattern in the body that can impact tissue far removed from the original injury. CST is a way to release this tension in the body."

    I use one of the craniosacral techniques a lot down the beach, whenever anyone complains to me about having frequent headaches. This is the Atlanto-Occipital release. This is designed to relieve the muscles at the base of the posterior skull. There are many muscles that can cause headaches by their trigger point referral pattern. However, I believe that the suboccipital muscles are implicated in 80% of the cases, so it is always a great place to start. One Sunday I had three clients in a row, all with headaches at the time, and no, none of them were alcohol related, and craniosacral therapy was able to provide relief for the headaches of all three clients.


    PNF Stretching to improve range of motion

    PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. Pretty fancy name, simple technique. Here is what happens:

    The practitioner puts a selected muscle in a stretched position, as stretched as is comfortable. The client then contracts the muscle for five or six seconds using about 5 per cent of their strength before relaxing the muscle. When the client takes a deep breath and then exhales, the practitioner is usually able to then stretch the muscle a little more. The process is normally repeated three times.

    I use this technique a lot for improving range of motion in the head and neck.


    Trigger point therapy

    Trigger points are irritable "knots" in muscles that are tender when you press on them. However, the important aspect of trigger points is that you usually feel the pain somewhere else. This is known as referred pain. If you have pain in the front of the shoulder, for example, there are many muscles which could be the culprit. The masseur has to be a detective to track down the trigger point causing the pain. Expect a good practitioner to refer to charts from time to time, as there is way too much to remember regarding the patterns of referred pain for the 700 muscles in the body!

    Trigger points are further complicated by the fact that satellite trigger points develop in areas of referred pain. Thus you can get a domino effect. One muscle has a trigger point referring pain elsewhere. In the referred area, a new trigger point or two develop, which refer pain elsewhere again, and satellite trigger points develop here, refer pain elsewhere and so it goes on.

    Trigger points don't limit themselves to referring pain to other muscles. You can feel the pain in joints, for example. Trigger points in the sternocleidomastoid muscle can cause you to experience headaches, toothache, earache, dizziness and sinusitis, without giving you any pain in the muscle itself - except when you work the trigger points in the muscle, when you will know all about it!!

    Trigger points can also refer pain to organs and cause them to malfunction as well.

    Trigger point therapy involves relieving these knots by either pressing on the spot until the client feels just pressure rather than discomfort, or making several slow moves through the knot.


    Myopractic (a variation of Bowen)

    Bowen therapy is named after Tom Bowen, who hailed from Geelong. It is a technique where, in essence, the practitioner strums or flicks across muscle fibres in a manner similar to playing the guitar, although, as with playing the guitar, there is a bit more to it than that!

    After Tom's death, several people/organisations have taught his methods. One such is Neil Skilbeck's Australian College of Myopractic. Arthur has completed a number of units towards accreditation by the Australian College of Myopractic.


    Deep tisssue / sports massage

    This is an oil based massage designed to lengthen tissue and relieve tight muscles, and tone athletes up. However, it is useful for anyone!! I would like to acknowledge Barry Harwood for his excellent course for these techniques.


    Cross fibre friction

    This is done without oil, either directly on skin or through clothes, and works across the fibres of the muscles. I use this technique for much of the chair massage routine I use at the beach.

    I would like to acknowledge Barry Harwood for his excellent course for these techniques


    Swedish Massage

    This is a relaxing, oil based massage, a primary benefit of which is to improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. It does not target specific aches/pains or injuries, but can be a good stress reliever. I offer this service, but most of my clientele come to me with aches and pains as that is where I am coming from (after spending years in pain myself).


    Neck, back and shoulder massages

    This is my nearly world famous chair massage that I perform at the beach. Well, I'm not famous yet but I have had repeat visits from clients holidaying in WA two years in a row from places such as Queensland and England. I also find people making trips to the beach in Rockingham from places such as Fremantle and Mandurah to have a chair massage on a Sunday.

    After a relaxing general warm up, I target specific areas of tightness, asking clients to turn their head right and left to identify areas of restriction. If people have problems with levator scapula muscles I sometimes use counterstrain techniques on the table to release the muscle rather than using trigger points. I also use the table for clients who suffer from headaches or have headaches at the time.


    Manual Lymphatic Drainage to ease swelling

    I provide a service for manual lymphatic drainage for simple cases such as with ankle sprains and so on. This is a very gentle technique which promotes the return of a build up of interstitial fluid, usually caused by an inflammatory response, into the lymphatic system which eventually returns the fluid to the blood system. For more complicated cases, I refer people to one of WA's most experienced MLD practitioners, Sue Rollason. Her contact details are:

    Susan rollason
    Shop 6
    Barberry Sq
    12 Barber St
    Kalamunda 6076
    Tel 9257 1050


    Acupressure techniques based on the Chinese approach to the Meridians

    Based on the same principles as acupuncture but using thumbs rather than needles!!


    Reflexology - foot massage

    Theory is that pain in a particular part of the foot refers to a particular part or organ of the body. Of course, sometimes pain in the foot can indicate a problem with the foot or legs!!


    Muscle Energy Technique - used to correct scoliosis for example

    Under construction....