I have had many motivations to write this book. The main one is the desire to share my thirty-five years of clinical experience and more than a quarter century of education. Massage therapy is undeniably one of the most powerful, therapeutic methods of treatment that exists in conventional and alternative medicine. Massage is also the most natural and humane method, because it treats patients, not by intruding their bodies chemically or surgically, thereby causing an array of negative side effects, but simply by placing our hands on another human being.
Massage, as a therapeutic tool, has been known and used since ancient times. The scientific community has given it serious consideration only in the last sixty years. Within this time, scientists have discovered many important factors that link massage with the treatment of multiple diseases. Most of these works are written in a very complex way and a massage practitioner can have a hard time extracting their practical benefits. Thus, although there are many ingenious protocols that allow massage to have a pinpointed affect on many different ailments, the field practitioners often lack this knowledge and usually settle for a “feel good” conveyer belt mentality.
Therefore the purpose of this book is to offer a simple approach to massage therapy. One that keeps in touch with the latest scientific developments, plows through the labyrinths of convoluted information, and gives the field practitioner only the most important and practical guidance in performing scientifically sound protocols in order to achieve results.
I am a very passionate proponent of the simple approach. There is a big difference between people who say that they believe that a simple approach to medical and sports massage is the right one, and people who actually know and implement that approach. Only a simple approach to medical and sports massage will lead to rapid and sustained results.
What is this simple approach and how is it different from other approaches?
Our lives are full of events that are connected by cause and effect. For instance, if we lift and release an object it’s going to fall down. Gravity existed a long time before Galileo and Newton described its behavior quantitatively. Millenniums before their time, knowing nothing about gravity beyond its cause and effect relation, military engineers created machines that catapulted rocks over the wall of besieged cities. Today, you can rarely find a person who’s not familiar with the force of gravity and Newton’s law. Yet to a large degree, the nature of gravity is still a mystery. We understand much more about it now, but there is always one more “why” to which no one has an answer. After all is said and done, gravity is just that. However, it doesn’t stop us from counting on gravity to be there for us every time and to use its cause and effect relations to our advantage.
Electro-magnetic force is another example of a natural phenomenon. The magnetic field is produced by the motion of electric charges. Conversely, movement of the magnetic field causes electrical current. The nature of these events is very complex and like gravity, not very well understood. Yet this does not preclude us from generating electricity by rotating magnets on electric stations. Returning to massage, science can explain many things. It cannot explain everything. It can measure and record a detailed cause and effect mapping that guides practitioners in the field. It can tell us what manipulations, and in which sequence, these manipulations need to be administered in order to achieve the desired effect.
As paradoxical as it may sound, in order to achieve sustainable results, a “complete understanding” is not necessary. If, for instance, a client suffers from the negative effects of stress, a massage therapist should have a clear understanding of the abnormalities caused by stress. It is not necessary to understand the problem on a molecular, atomic or subatomic level. However, it is pertinent to understand that stress causes arteries to contract, which result in other negative side effects such as an increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, and an increase in blood sugar levels, etc. It is not important to understand the exact triggering mechanism of such contractions, or the neuron chemistry which allows the transfer of such signals from the brain to the arteries. In other words, each problem has to be dealt with on its own level of abstraction. It is more important for a massage therapist to know which of the scientifically developed protocols for stress management to apply and be able to masterfully perform them.
So what are the key ingredients of the Simple Approach? After many years in the field I have come to the conclusion that there are three factors crucial in helping people through massage:
1. A deep comprehension of the physiological effect of massage on the human body. This means to be able to visualize scientific data about the physiology and physiological effects of massage.
2. A clear understanding of pathology, so that a massage therapist can apply the correct protocols in a manner appropriate to a specific pathology. For example, when treating Asthma, a therapist has to apply protocols in an intensive and energetic manner, but in cases of bursitis or tendinitis, etc.; a massage therapist has to apply protocols with consideration of a client’s lowered threshold of pain.
3. A firm concept of mind and body unity. They are not separate, but are one entity and have to be treated accordingly.
4. Further in the book we will develop these statements in much greater detail.
The Power of Research.
All protocols and clinical data that I propose in this book are the result of much research conducted during the last 60 years by scientists in order to develop an effective means of treatment. Under no circumstances should we underestimate the power of science and research.
Many people associate scientifically developed methods with something artificial, or aberrant, thus making a principal distinction between scientists and artists, the latter oftentimes thought of as those receiving a divine inspiration. Certainly a composer doesn’t carry some kind of inner music generator, but he has been gifted with a rare ability to hear the “music of the heavens,” to interpret it through his emotions, and then to translate it into the language of notes that the World can hear and enjoy. It seems as if these people were programmed to be composers. By the same token, a scientist is granted a similar ability to receive heavenly inspiration and ideas for research. This will lead to the discovery of truths about the human body, including ways to treat illnesses, mechanisms of disorders, and much more.
Why have we chosen to become massage therapists?
In my 27 years of educational experience, I’ve been involved with more than 7,500 students who went on to follow careers in massage therapy. I am always curious as to why each person chose this occupation and I continuously conduct my own little surveys. Only a small percentage of graduates aspired to use their hands to heal others. In most cases, my students confessed the decision came out of a desire to change careers and earn more money. The first thing that came to their minds was to become a massage therapist. This led me to conclude that all of us who stay in the field have always been, at least on a subconscious level, programmed to become massage therapists. Millions of other people would love to change their careers or make more money, but never cast a thought in the direction of becoming a massage therapist. I believe that all therapists have been chosen by a greater power for a mission to heal others. Therefore, we all have great potential in developing our skills to reach better, rapid and sustained results. Adopting the idea that you became a massage therapist, not accidentally, but by some aspiration coming from above, will greatly benefit you in the days to come.
The duty of a massage therapist is to provide therapy by means of massage. The by-product of massage therapy could be its “feel good” aspect. A massage therapist however, should realize that the “feel good” aspect shouldn’t be the main goal. The real purpose of therapeutic massage should be to achieve real results, such as the reduction of stress and pain, and to increase the range of motion.
For example, when massage therapists prepare to perform full body stress management massage, their focus should be directed toward treatment, which in turn will lead to results. One must be aware of the details of stress related side effects and on how massage leads to the elimination of those side effects. To aid in developing this much needed mindset, I recommend careful reading of the chapter “Medical Full Body Stress Management Massage.”
Massage therapists should direct their minds toward results, whether they perform a full body medical stress management massage, pre-event or post sports massage, or orthopedic massage.
For example, when massage therapists prepare to perform full body stress management massage, their focus should be directed toward treatment, which in turn will lead to results. One must be aware of the details of stress related side effects and how massage leads to their elimination. To aid in developing this much needed mindset, I recommend careful reading of the chapter “Medical Full Body Stress Management Massage.”
Massage therapy is an art of healing. One of its important components is energy work. I advise you to carefully read the chapter “Science of Massage and Energy Work,” more than once if needed. The creativity that the art of healing demands makes our work very exciting and peaceful; it’s never a hard labor. We must remember that developing a sense of touch is an ongoing process, where the sky is the limit. After many decades in the treatment room, I continue to develop my own sense of touch to this day. If we constantly keep in mind that while performing massage we, in fact, are performing art, we should never experience boredom during the treatment session. Therapists, who begin experiencing the strain of routine, must adjust their state of mind and focus on seeing with their hands what their eyes cannot see. I would define the sense of touch as the ability of a massage therapist to visualize the physiological processes that massage promotes in the human body.
This book also contains information about my 12 Volume DVD collection. When using this collection, I would ask that you please pay attention to the chapter describing “The Guidelines for Studying Medical Massage.” I highly recommend careful reading of this chapter. I believe that the recommendations in that chapter are very beneficial, practical, and useful to fulfill the mission we’ve chosen.
Treatment Plan and Strategies
All protocols proposed in this book contain treatment plans and strategies, but to make them effective an additional understanding is crucial. Massage therapists could theoretically memorize the protocols and implement them mechanically. However, they could achieve far greater effects if they would understand the physiological dynamics of such protocols towards the existing pathology. For example, when studying the material on a frozen shoulder, in DVD Volume #12, pay careful attention to the importance of reducing tension in the rotator cuff muscles. This is not only for the purpose of restoring normal tonus and range of motion, but also for causing vasodilation. This is necessary for gas exchange in connective avascular tissues such as tendons, ligaments and fascia. By keeping these details in mind, your soft tissue mobilization will have a much deeper effect and of course, will be seen in the results.
To be driven by Passion and Love
Passion and love, in our occupation, result from the realization of both power and the simplicity of methods that allows us to help people suffering from pain, sleeplessness, anxiety and other ailments. The more we realize the power of massage therapy, the more respect and love we feel for this occupation.
To be aware of the power of my touch, all I have to think of is the spinal column from which 32 pairs of spinal nerves, consisting of fibers, extend and spread so they can innervate skin, fascia, muscles, and inner organs.
By mobilizing soft tissue and deforming proprioreceptors located in the skin, fascia, muscles, etc, I create streaming electrical activities. These activities proceed and stimulate the central nervous system and inner organs sharing the same level of innervation. This stimulation awakens reflexes affecting muscular relaxation, vasodilation, and increasing the blood supply to the inner organs. In addition, it awakens reflexes to the somatic parts and the restoration of activities in the autonomic nervous system.
Realizing that massage causes and controls all of these processes makes me conscious of the great power massage therapists possess. Please keep in mind that many scientists have tried to find ways to affect the activities of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system by using medications. They have not always been successful. In addition, many of the medications can cause a long list of side effects.
Hippocrates said, “The nature of the human body is to heal itself and we must be the servants.” The natural ability of the human body for self-healing is actually what resolves our injuries and disorders. Therapists are here to stimulate that healing process. With amazement I think of our ability to stimulate the healing processes in cases like tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis, difficult muscular pathologies, sciatic nerve neuralgia, thoracic outlet syndrome, and much more. Also, the realization that the power of massage reenergizes us and make us even greater transmitters of healing energy.
Our work as massage therapists can be compared to the performance of a musician. As he appears on stage amid the cheers of thousands in the audience, he stands in front of the lights, very conscious of where he is. Yet, as he sits down at the instrument and the lights dim, from the first musical tone he generates, he steps into the world of musical sound and once there, engrossed in music, he becomes unaware of his surroundings. The same should happen to us. From the moment we touch clients we begin creating action potentials, increasing drainage of venous blood and lymphatic drainage and, touch after touch, movement after movement, we step into the world of healing. To be in this world is to see with our hands what our eyes cannot see, creating our own energetic status, healing our patients, and promoting our own well being. I believe that performing step-by-step protocols and submerging ourselves into the state of a massage session, is the only correct energetic status we should adopt. Understanding that will give us the ability to transform ourselves into this beautiful world after only a few massage strokes.