a community of practitioners
Giving Massage a New Name and Reputation
By Paula M. Moerland, LMT November 2009, All Rights Reserved
I love my new profession. I think it is some of the most amazing work I have ever done. I loved my old profession too, but never could I have made such a powerful impact in the quality of a person’s life as a software engineer that I can as a licensed massage therapist. But I have a beef with my new profession: In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “I get no respect!”
To some degree I blame all of us in the profession who have worked so hard to legitimize the therapeutics of massage for choosing the word in the first place – the connotations are powerful! I’ll skip the erotic and S-word references and just focus on the P-word reference: Pampering. During my six years of work with cancer patients we would sometimes see a lull in our schedule. I could not figure out why until I found out various staff members were telling people to come and get pampered. Excuse me, but if you have known any number of cancer patients in your life (I was one, too) you may have observed what I have observed: these people are about doing things for others, not themselves. Telling a typical cancer patient to come and get pampered is a good way to lose business. I told them to tell the patients that we could help them with their pain and help alleviate the post-chemo malaise and increase their range-of-motion and speed healing after surgery. That’s when business picked back up again; we even had to add another hour to the schedule.
I don’t want to devalue the benefits of relaxation therapies, of which there are many, but focusing on the relaxation aspects and avoiding the therapeutics has been, is, and will continue to slow our progression into the medical profession and the general populace as a serious medical therapy. Mention the word massage to most people, whether uninitiated medical professionals or general public, and I guarantee they are not thinking ‘powerful healing therapy’, nor are they giving the massage therapist standing in front of them the full respect they deserve. In fact, the justifiable claims we make outside of relaxation are labeled as ‘quackery’. Like it or not, admit it or not, the word ‘massage’ evokes powerful images in people’s minds and not necessarily or usually the images in the therapists’ minds.
The number one thing that must change if we are to alter the world’s perception of this amazing therapy – is the name. That task need not be difficult if we look at what is changing in the field:
What is changing is our understanding of the healing mechanisms behind bodywork.
What is changing is that mainstream science is now paying attention, and their work is vital, for it is our passage into the medical arena and into genuine, widespread respect.
The scientists leading the way are those involved in the only two World Fascia conferences ever given: At Harvard Medical in 2007 and at Vrije Universiteit, The Netherlands, in 2009. Everything that the Fascia Congress is about is the fact that everything in the body is about Connective Tissue (CT) – of which fascia is one type. And believe it or not, Connective Tissue has never really been studied before by mainstream science, other than being labeled as an ‘envelope’ and getting dissected away and discarded. Blessedly, this is all changing, albeit slowly as science more-or-less has to go back to the drawing board and start anew!
For example, science has now proved that not only is much of Connective Tissue innervated, but the nerves end there. This is big news. As there is essentially no place in the body that Connective Tissue does not exist, it is highly likely that it is the medium by which everything else is connected and communicates. I believe that CT is about to be discovered as the premier communication system of the body. For not only do the nerves actually end within this tissue, not only has the tissue been found to be ‘intelligent’, but the body’s electrical system runs on it. It is the substance that allows the body to be the super-semiconductor of electricity that it is: Something that will take science time to prove, because it has to be proven with live not dead tissue, but they are well on their way.
As licensed massage therapists we study many things, but primarily: muscles, tendons and ligaments. However, muscles and tendons by themselves barely account for 40% of the muscle and tendon capabilities. Without the associated Connective Tissue, muscle and tendon are essentially mechanical dummies. Remove the Connective Tissue from a muscle and then slice through the muscle and you will feel nothing. When we feel pain, it is our Connective Tissue telling us that there is something wrong.
There is a new model for muscles and it is a muscle/CT model as a single architectural unit – meaning they must be studied together and our textbooks and medical drawings must be updated. Here’s a little tidbit about ligaments, which are described as structures that connect bone to bone: “Ligaments do not exist. The CT was carved away by dissecting anatomists and the remaining structure was drawn by an artist.” Think of that the next time someone says they tore their ACL!
Massage therapy schools, and likely the physical therapy profession as well, will need to alter their focus: It is time to move away from the basic mechanics of muscles and tendon attachments and toward the complex, thermal, electronic, innervated, structural, (emotional and intelligent) Connective Tissue system – and its relationship to and influence on all other organ and endocrine systems in the body, including the entire digestive tract, brain, and central nervous system – none of which would be quite so smart or able to do their jobs without CT!
I think of CT as feminine: it is about communication and relationships. And, CT is the only tissue that has a communicating relationship with all other body tissues. Hence the previous notation of ‘emotional and intelligent’ - this is not meant to be derogatory, it is meant to illustrate that emotional memory is stored in connective tissue. At least that is the understanding across a wide variety of bodyworkers and somatic therapists. Many physical ailments have disappeared after the release of emotional traumas. I cannot imagine anything other than an intelligent system being able to do that.
For those massage therapists who eventually became CT Therapists of one type or another, including those that studied with the brilliant Ida Rolf (who was so ahead of her time), we know that CT Therapy can dramatically alter the body’s ability to self-correct, and the results are astounding in that often decades’ worth of pain can simply disappear within hours. This is the remodeling effect of CT’s Tensegrity system – which is also being studied – and is beautifully filmed in J. C. Guimberteau’s DVDs: Strolling under the Skin and The Skin Passage.
So how does the manipulation of CT result in those astounding changes I have seen? Let’s look at my theory of old injuries and surgeries – where pain continues or appears after-the-fact. Ever had a client come in and say, “I had surgery on that knee 15 years ago, and it’s still giving me trouble”? I have, and amazingly it was fixed in about five minutes. Here’s the theory: The body always tries to protect injured areas and it does so by having the supportive tissue go into contraction. Once the injury has healed, however, the contracted tissues often get stuck into chronic contraction, eventually resulting in adhesions between layers of CT and muscle, which leads to starvation of the tissues, which brings on inflammation, which results in pain. In the case of our knee surgery client, it was the distal quads and their associated fascia that stayed contracted, developed pathology, and kept tugging on the patella, eliciting the pain he felt. CT Therapy was applied, which reset the contracted tissues, ‘melted’ the adhesions, restored circulation, and gave space for the buried inflammation to clear and for the patella to move freely again - and something that looked like a miracle happened: not only was the pain gone but normal movement was restored. This client could not believe that his knee trouble had disappeared – but it did.
A skilled therapist with high palpation and Connective Tissue ‘listening’ skills can identify and locate old injury/surgical sites in the body early on and clear them long before they become a pain that the client points out to us. In fact, this early recognition can do more than just speed the recovery process; it could circumvent any number of health problems including prevent premature aging.
The inflammation part of the 15-year-old-knee-pain story is important for it relates to many other pain conditions that we think of as disease, that are really not disease, per se, like fibromyalgia, which I have and which I believe to be a disorder within the Connective Tissue, probably related to the nervous system. Using the exact same CT Therapy, we can locate isolated areas of adhesions and inflammation and release them, resulting in pain relief for sufferers of fibromyalgia and likely prevent many potential health maladies. One still has to address what caused the problem to begin with – which often turns out to be a combination of stress, dehydration, improper nutrition and exercise – but it gives the body a chance to break the inflammation cycle and restore local circulation which is vital to the body being able to heal itself.
I do not claim to know what name should be given to what I have been calling CT Therapy. As the practitioner methods and approaches appear infinite, perhaps science should decide. Whatever name is chosen, I choose to visualize the future of CT Therapy as a respected medical profession. I would also like to see it used regularly in people’s lives as the best prevention of illness and injury: Think of the drastic reduction in healthcare costs if CT Therapy were tried before drug and surgical therapies, which are valid but harsh on the body. May the enlightened medicine I visualize, materialize in the very near future.
Sarah M. Corey Graduate Program, Department of Neurology, University of Vermont, VT, US
Energy Medicine, The Scientific Basis, Oschman
Jaap van der Wal Department of Anatomy and Embryology, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands