Monday, March 19, 2012

Massage Adjustments?

As a licensed massage therapist, a great question I get asked frequently is if I do adjustments. What this refers to specifically is spinal adjustments which are physical manipulations of the spinal vertebrae. The short answer is, no.

The more complete answer is that a massage therapist works with the soft tissues of the body; these being the connective tissue (skin, fascia that covers and holds everything together), tendons, ligaments and muscles. We use our hands, elbows, forearms and sometimes tools to loosen, stretch, shorten or lengthen these tissues so that the client feels relief. Relief from what? Well, that could mean stress relief. Or it could be for pain management, joint comfort, injury rehabilitation or to keep these body tissues supple, strong and moving the way they are supposed to.

Those who work with the spinal vertebrae are also licensed health care practitioners, typically chiropractors or osteopaths. They specifically assess the continuity of the spinal fluids, the vertebrae and any mis-alignments, injuries or degeneration which affect the body's health. These practitioners, just as massage therapists, educate, assess and treat structures of the body. The difference is that I work with muscles and a chiropractor (for example) works with bones.

What's the connection between the two and why do I get asked if I do adjustments? The connection is that the bones and muscles give structure to the body so we don't all look like a bean bag chair. They work in unison to keep the body upright and mobile. Plus, they keep all our other parts from spilling all over the place.

The reason I get asked about adjustments is because often after a massage therapy session, a client will move a certain way and feel the relief of that familiar "crack" when a vertebrae re-aligns itself spontaneously. Though I say spontaneously, this isn't to be mistaken for "coincidence".

Why is this? Simply put, because the bones go where the muscles put them. This is why you could go to get weekly adjustments for your neck and yet it continues to "go out". If the muscles of the neck or shoulder are continually tight and shortened; as soon as an adjustment is made to the vertebrae, it will be pulled back out of position by the offending muscle(s) structure.

I've seen clients that have received adjustments for years without significant relief of their problem and once they incorporate massage into their wellness regimen, they find the spinal adjustments begin to hold for longer periods of time between visits.

So again, I don't "do" adjustments. But with the help of massage therapy, your body frequently is able to do it's own adjusting.