Osteopaths and massage
Massage is one of the oldest and most basic forms of manual therapy. In essence it is pressure applied in various ways to the body tissues, usually by the practitioner’s hands, but fingers, knuckles, forearms and elbows can also be used. The benefits of the technique result not only from the pressure but also from the healing power of touch. Osteopaths use massage techniques as part of their therapeutic tool kit to restore balance and health to stressed muscle, ligamentous and fascial tissues.
There are many different syles of massage – Swedish massage, Shiatsu, Thai massage, fascial massage and ‘deep tissue’ massage are some of the labels that will be familiar to most patients. Swedish massage, for example, follows a routine and employs a variety of different relaxing strokes, whereas Shiatsu uses pressure points whose rationale is to be found in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Deep tissue massage aims to relieve pain caused by stress in the deeper musculature and as its name implies involves sustained pressure, often to the point of discomfort.
Osteopaths have a thorough and detailed knowledge of anatomy and we can therefore use a variety of these modalities with precision to improve health and function.
Sports massage is beneficial for all sports practitioners, from joggers and part time enthusiasts right up to elite athletes. It can help you prepare for an event, improve performance, and reduce recovery time and help to prevent injury. It can also be tailored to specific sports.
Training and exercise develop the body’s skills and capacities including strength, range of movement and endurance. Heavy and repetitive exertion can lead to delayed muscle soreness, minor tissue damage and strains, and the development of trigger points. Some sports people carry old injuries or areas of scar tissue that have not been properly rehabilitated.
The specific benefits of sports massage include more relaxed muscles and less general tension, improved range of movement and tissue elasticity, and better fluid dynamics including blood and lymphatic circulation.
Particular activities impose their own demands on the body. Swimmers require considerable shoulder girdle and upper body strength, tennis players experience shoulders and arm discomfort, runners gluteal and leg pain. And all of us who are not professional athletes have day jobs as well – even everyday office work adds extra neck and shoulder strain.
What happens in treatment
Massage therapists generally require you to be undressed but covered in a sheet and treated on a massage table or plinth; generally a routine of treatment is followed. As osteopaths we have the advantage of being a diagnostic profession and will have taken a detailed case history and examined you and we do not necessarily require you to be undressed. We tailor our treatment to your needs.
The style of massage used will depend on a patient’s age and health. Of course elite athletes tend to be healthy individuals in the prime of life, but all ages are now encouraged to be active as part of a healthy lifestyle. Acute and painful injuries will not respond to inappropriate technique. Patients who are diabetic or rheumatic or who have other conditions affecting tissue repair and metabolism again require careful treatment. Older people, for example, derive great benefit from slow and light touch and a short treatment as their tissues will not generally tolerate heavy or sustained pressure.
The techniques applied depend on the intention of the practitioner: different massage strokes are used to stretch tissues, to promote repair or adaption, to relax muscles or to stimulate blood flow or a combination of those. Massage can consist of smooth flowing strokes, careful kneading or wringing movements or slow sustained pressure. We often use massage milk or massage oils to make treatment more comfortable and we also combine sports massage with other techniques such as muscle energy work and trigger point therapy, to ensure patient wellbeing.