What Is Remedial Massage?
Soft tissue in the human body responds to touch. Remedial Massage is a deep massage which helps the body to recover and regain health after injury, surgery or lifestyle problems. It aims to improve muscle, ligament and tendon function by allowing these soft tissues to move freely.
Remedial massage is a hands-on approach, not to be confused with a relaxation massage, but designed to work on a particular problem area that a patient may have, for example, lower back pain, muscular atrophy or whiplash. It is intended to stimulate blood flow and aid circulation in injured areas of the body, and so encourage natural healing. Sports massage is a specialised area within Remedial massage.
Remedial massage is used to treat musculoskeletal problem areas including strains, sprains, broken bones, bruising and, together with deep tissue massage it works on removal of blockages, scar tissue or adhesions left after surgery or injury. It can also help with lifestyle changes where pain has been brought on through work or environment, for example – repetitive strain injury, tennis elbow and frozen shoulder. People who use keyboards continuously while working on computers, or those making the same repeated actions in a manufacturing process – all may create problems in a particular area, and find that they benefit from Remedial Massage.
This therapy is not only about a superficial massage of the body; it is essential that the Remedial Massage therapist has a good working knowledge of anatomy and physiology in order to determine the exact location to treat for each patient. Questions asked before and during treatment will help the therapist to locate the precise area that is troublesome, and therefore which muscles and tendons are injured. Patient feedback is vital for precisely pinpointing damaged tissue and to let the therapist know how much pressure to apply for comfort and effectiveness.
Patients normally report that they feel better after just one session and within three sessions a big improvement is noticeable. A recent injury will respond and start to recover quickly in the hands of a skilled practitioner who has an in-depth understanding of treating injuries induced by traumatic injuries and accidents and in the injuries which arise from Sports activities. Chronic or long-term conditions are also found to respond positively to remedial massage, and enable the patient better range of movement and increased level of activity – although the healing may take longer. This kind of massage has been found to be particularly successful with chronic back or compound injuries which may have been resisted to other types of treatment.
What To Expect
Remedial massage is performed directly on the skin, sometimes the practitioner may apply a little oil for lubrication. Some clothes may need to be removed; areas not being worked on will be covered up by a sheet or towel, and sessions usually last between ½ and 1 hour. However the first consultation is likely to take longer as case history and an assessment of the required treatment is necessary before the therapist begins to work on you. You’ll be asked things like, how long
you’ve had the problem, where it is, how it feels and what sort of things make it better or worse. And you’ll be asked to stretch, bend and do some small activities which will indicate to the therapist what needs doing.
You will usually lie on a massage table and may well be asked to move into different positions – for instance: lie on your front, turn onto your back or side – while the practitioner is working. Often advice on lifestyle or work environment will be given and sometimes a particular set of exercises may be recommended to make the treatment more effective.
Once the problem area has been identified, the practitioner will use his or her fingers, thumbs and sometimes – if more pressure is required – the knuckles, forearm and elbow may be employed. The massage techniques employed are intended to treat both the superficial and deep tissues, improving the flow of blood and lymph to clear away toxins and assist healing.
When the practitioner is working over scars or fibrous tissue or an area associated with inflammation, the massage technique may feel a little uncomfortable, however the end result is generally considered worthwhile as remedial massage helps to ease pain and reduces stress. For the next day or so you may feel a little tender or sore; this is particularly true if the pain is long-term and the muscles are tight.
Benefits and Effects
The soft tissue of our muscles, ligaments and tendons has the function of stabilizing our joints and protecting our organs. When these soft tissues are injured or damaged, we feel pain; common areas are back and neck pain, but it can also present as chest pain, abdominal pain, pelvic pain and headaches. Remedial massage can have a therapeutic affect whether used on athletes and patients whose pain is not sports-related. Many incapacitating conditions that come with age can be tracked back to injuries received earlier in life, but can be relieved if treated with regular remedial massage which can result in greater strength, movement and mobility.
How remedial massage works is by the application of specialist massage and manipulation techniques to treat tensions, weaknesses and imbalances in our soft tissues. It is claimed to have a variety of benefits:
- Increased circulation and better blood flow brings nutrition to muscles and tissues (alleviating muscle soreness from physical activity or injury).
- Improved muscle tone can lead to improved posture and result in generally better body awareness.
- Relief for aching muscles after exertion or sporting activity.
- Decreasing tension in the muscles allowing relaxation which improves flexibility and reduces pain.
- Physical relaxation of the soft tissues when they become tight, can also lead to mental relaxation and general feeling of well-being.
- After an injury or accident, this kind of massage can aid recovery and is recommended for post-operation rehabilitation.
- By increasing endorphin levels which provide a natural mood lift, remedial massage can reduce pain and increase the speed of recovery.
- It is claimed to strengthen the immune system
- The general relaxation experienced, and increased endorphin levels, will reduce anxiety and stress levels which, in turn can improve the quality of sleep.
- There is also the added benefit of stimulating flow of lymph towards the lymph glands,
helping to eliminate waste and toxins from the body, leaving a feeling of well-being.
Remedial massage has long been acknowledged by sportsmen and women, who use regular remedial massage to maximize performance, prevent and recover from injury, it is now growing in popularity as a successful treatment for non-sport related conditions, such as repetitive strain injury and work-related problems.
Remedial massage can be used for many conditions, including:
- Achilles injuries
- Arthritic disorders
- Back, neck and shoulder pain
- Cartilage damage
- Dancing & Sports Injuries
- Frozen shoulder
- Groin strain
- Hip problems
- Muscular atrophy
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Rehabilitation after surgery
- Scar tissue
- Stress related to exhaustion
- Tennis elbow
While the benefits of stimulation of blood flow can provide a soothing feeling for the patient, the nervous system also responds well to deep tissue massage. The all-round health of an individual can be seen in increased mobility and pain reduction, an increase in vitality and (performance levels – for sports persons), and better sleep.
Remedial Massage and Fascinating Facts
There’s nothing new! Health practitioners from ancient Greek times, physicians like Hippocrates (460-357 BC) and Galen of Pergamum (129-216 AD) recommended massage as a therapeutic treatment.
• In this century, up until the time of the Second World War (1939-45) therapeutic massage was very much in use in mainstream nursing. It was considered as essential part of the techniques available to nursing professionals. After the war, the role of massage moved from the responsibility of nursing staff to the hands of physiotherapists.
• Advanced Remedial Massage dates back to the early 1900s. At that time massage therapists and physiotherapists were less distinctive disciplines than they are today. Gradually physiotherapists began to focus more on machinery and exercises to assist healing and movement, while Remedial Massage Therapists continued to use traditional developed hands-on treatments and developed new techniques to enhance repair, improve movement and encourage healing.
• According to the historian Plutarch, the Roman emperor Julius Caesar indulged in frequent sessions of massage, and found it beneficial after his global campaigns. Romans incorporated massage with Hydrotherapy treatments.
• Massage before a sports events increases an athlete’s flexibility, together with increased speed and power, and helps to prevent injury.
• Massage has many functions, from providing relief from pain to providing relaxation and pleasure. The Early Christian Church in the West has generally disapproved of the association with massage parlours, but in places like India and Japan, family massage is a deep part of the culture and a common practice, involving members of the family of all ages (babies are massaged from birth and older members get relief from the symptoms of their age).
• Remedial massage combines the techniques of Sports Massage (which is attributed to a Finnish athlete using the method in the 1924 Olympics in Paris) and deep tissue massage developed in 1940 by Therese Pfrimmer. A physiotherapist from Canada, Pfrimmer suffered paralysis in her legs and experimented with her own ‘deep tissue therapy’ and subsequently published a book entitled “Muscles – Your Invisible Bonds”.
• Touch is reckoned to be the first sense to develop (babies possess it before they are born) and it is believed to be the last to go.
Institute of Sports and Remedial Massage (ISRM)
The ISRM has a number of affiliated schools throughout the UK , and is registered with Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), which is the only voluntary regulatory body for complementary healthcare which has official government backing. The CNHC is supported and funded by the Department of Health.
The Sports & Remedial Therapies Council (SRTC )
The SRTC is an independent, not-for-profit, professional forum comprising professional associations that represent professional sports and remedial therapists who are qualified, experienced, insured and regulated. The SRTC is recognised by the UK’s official regulator for sports and remedial therapists, the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), as the governing body for sports and remedial therapy.
The Sports Therapy Organisation (STO)
Sports Therapy Organisation has been established since 1999 and is an organisational member of the Sports & Remedial Therapies Council (SRTC), the lead body for Sports Therapy and Remedial Therapy, and is also member of CNHC includes Remedial Massage.
General Council of Massage Therapy (GCMT)
The General Council for Massage Therapies is the governing body for massage therapies and all bodyworks and soft tissue techniques in the UK. The GCMT non-profit-making body, initially established by the major professional associations in massage therapies.