Aromatherapy has extended the horizons of massage therapists by taking them into the realms of herbal/botanic medicine in a way which allows them to incorporate the powerful healing potentials of plants into their existing methodologies.
In a different way the soft tissue techniques which have evolved out of osteopathy allow a further expansion of the range of conditions which massage therapists and aromatherapist can successfully address.
Osteopathy has gradually moved (and continues to move) away from the traditional means of joint mobilisation (high velocity thrusts for example) towards increased use of methods which accepts that most dysfunction in joints is the result of soft tissue dysfunction. Techniques for normalisation are therefore less invasive and aggressive.
These methods which include what are generally called 'muscle energy' techniques as well as functional methods (including Strain/counterstrain) and Neuromuscular Techniques (which address local soft tissue dysfunctions including trigger points) are loosely combined under the heading of soft tissue manipulation.
Many osteopaths now find that by using such approaches they can deal more effectively than previously with joint restrictions and pain, in less time, with less effort, and far more safely.
From the perspective of the massage therapist and aromatherapist this opens a treasure chest of technique possibilities.
The only factor retarding aromatherapists and massage therapists seems to be a significant (in some cases) lack of knowledge of anatomy and physiology, something which can be remedied by additional study....after which the availability in workshop settings of training in use of these safe and powerful soft tissue methods can allow a significant widening of the scope of what can be successfully treated.
In order to adequately deal with soft tissue dysfunction the therapist needs to be able to assess and identify what is dysfunctional. The questions which need answering include:
- Which muscle groups have shortened and contracted?
- Which have become significantly weaker?
- What 'chain reactions' of imbalance have occurred as one muscle group (because of its excessive contraction) has inhibited and weakened its antagonist?
- What postural stresses have such changes produced and how is this further stressing the body as a whole, affecting its energy levels and function?
- Within particular muscle areas which are stressed how can we rapidly (using at least five different palpatory method) identify local soft tissue dysfunction such as trigger points?
In other words what palpable, measurable, identifiable evidence is there which relates to the symptoms (pain, restriction, fatigue etc) of this patient ?
And what can be done to remedy the situation, safely, effectively and quickly.
These are the questions and answers which the methodology of soft tissue manipulation offers.
Different Muscles Respond Differently to Stress
One of the most exciting revelations over the past decade has come from research which shows without question that particular muscles will shorten when stressed while others will not shorten but become increasingly weak (see reference 1 in particular).
The stress can result from poor posture, occupational patterns, repetitive movement, injury, emotional or other stress factors.