At Downtown Victoria Massage Therapy Clinic we use many different massage techniques depending on the needs of the patient, but myofascial massage is the foundation of most of our treatments. Both Rob and Shanna have taken extensive additional training in myofascial work since graduation.
Myofascial is a complicated word but the meaning is simple. ‘Myo’ means muscle, and ‘fascial’ means connective tissue. A myofascial massage assesses and treats both muscle and connective tissue in the body, with a deep understanding of how tension or dysfunction in one is reflected in the other.
We use myofascial techniques because we have found from experience that they are gentler, more effective, longer lasting, and best for addressing the root causes of pain and dysfunction. Postural and joint alignment almost always play a major role in the pain and dysfunction our patients are experiencing. Myofascial techniques don’t just resolve the issues our patients bring to us, but also often prevent them from reoccurring.
Muscle tissue is relatively easy to understand and treat. Muscles run from an attachment point on one bone to an attachment on another. Using oxygen from the blood as fuel, muscles contract to move bones and joints. A massage therapist palpates the muscle to find an area of poor movement or restriction (a “knot”), then compresses the area. This compression starves the muscle of local blood flow and therefore the muscle runs out of fuel and relaxes.
Connective tissue (fascia) is much more complicated than muscle. There is just as much connective tissue as muscle in the body, but fascia is distributed in thin sheets, bands and filaments like a spiderweb. Connective tissue mixes with and coats our muscles, forms tendons, ligaments and joints, coats organs and body cavities, and is the primary component of the skin.
Healthy connective tissue is gooey stretchy stuff, weak individually but incredibly strong as an entire structure since every element is connected to all the other neighboring elements. Since it does not use fuel, compressing fascia serves no purpose, and is in fact counter productive since it engages all the neighboring tissues to resist the pressure. Successful myofascial massage therapy techniques involve gripping, lifting, pulling, or subtle twisting motions. Fascial work is usually much lighter in pressure than muscle work, but can can be tremendously intense and effective if the right areas are accessed.
Shanna and Rob continue to explore the potential of myofascial work in treatment. In particular we have had very good recent success treating complex issues in the jaw, headaches, whiplash, concussion, sinus infection, frozen shoulder, scar tissue restrictions, scoliosis and pelvic tilt dysfunction.
We use a wide variety of techniques in treatment.
General Swedish Massage is the standard set of modalities that are used in relaxation massage at spas. This includes effleurage (long strokes), petrissage (rhythmic tapping or pounding) and deep point pressure techniques such as muscle stripping. All massages must include some relaxation techniques in order to be effective. We strive to treat areas of dysfunction that may be tender or painful in a way where the patient remains as relaxed as possible.
Deep-Tissue Massage is a generic description for a treatment style that is not “spa”. The medical term is therapeutic massage. Therapeutic massage is intended to treat and correct pain and dysfunction in the body, and is the main focus in our clinic.
Trigger-Point Release is the modality used when a therapist locates and compresses a “knot” in a muscle until the muscle relaxes. We are essentially blocking local blood flow to the muscle by compressing the tiny capillaries in the tissue. Temporarily starved of fuel (oxygen), the knot can no longer contract. This a standard and very effective massage technique, commonly used in most treatments.
Myofascial techniques assess and treat the complex web of connective tissues (fascia) in the body. These tissues cover and intertwine within muscles, form tendons and ligaments, coat the surface of all your organs, provide barriers between different body cavities, and are the primary component of your skin. A myofascial treatment seeks to assess and treat the subtle lines of force that are created by connective tissues that have been under constant long-term strain. Myofascial work forms the foundation of most of our treatments.
Joint Mobilization techniques are used to improve alignment or range of motion at a joint. There is a complex relationship between muscle tension and joint function in the body. Chronic overly tight muscles can bring joints out of alignment. Poorly aligned joints can overwork certain muscles and cause pain and inflammation in others. Long-term habits of body position (usually developed at work, the most common being head-forward posture from computer use) lead to impaired joint movement and specific patterns of muscular tension. Chronic problems such as low back pain and tension headaches often result. Joint mobilization techniques are small, gentle and slow stretches or oscillations, intended to improve joint health and to increase range of motion where it is limited.
Muscle Energy techniques are another technique used to help with posture and joint alignment. With these techniques the therapist anchors the limb and joint in a specific alignment and provides resistance while the patient attempts to move the limb in a specific way. This technique allows the patient to have full control of the movement and takes advantage of the leverage that is generated. It’s a very precise and effective tool that is used to correct more specific and obvious dysfunction, for example when neck range of motion is severely impaired, or when one side of the hip is misaligned with the other.
Craniosacral therapy seeks to assess and treat disorders arising from imbalances in the flow of craniosacral fluid around the brain and spinal cord. This fluid is produced and absorbed in different cranial cavities and an extremely subtle motion of the cranial bones flexing at the suture lines of the skull pumps this fluid through the body. Craniosacral work is very complex and subtle, with gentle positions of pressure held at various points of the head, neck and spine. Craniosacral work is deeply relaxing, and can be very effective for conditions such as headaches, whiplash, TMJ (jaw) dysfunction, or sinus infections.
TMJ techniques are specific to the temporomandibular joint, the jaw, one of the most complex joints in the human body. Every time we open our mouth the TMJ joint partly dislocates, with the mandible sliding halfway out of the joint on top of a disc of connective tissue. Problems with muscles and ligaments attached to the disc and surrounding bones can cause specific symptoms in the jaw such as clicking, locking, and reduced range of motion. In severe cases irreversible arthritis can result. Rob and Shanna have taken specific training on TMJ treatment and can offer intraoral treatment (working outside the teeth but inside the cheek, wearing latex gloves).
Other modalities that are sometimes used in the clinic are Manual Lymph Drainage (helping reduce chronic swelling or fluid imbalances), Visceral Manipulation (gentle massage of organs in the abdominal cavity to promote healthier blood flow, better movement of intestinal contents, or better positioning), and Contract-Relax or Agonist-Relax stretches (to improve range of motion at a joint).
Listening skills and conversational skills are essential tools of a massage therapist. Often patients come to us with great sources of stress in their lives that are being expressed in physical dysfunction in the body. You will find a sympathetic ear if you feel like talking, some good stories if you’d like a good laugh to distract you from your troubles, or comfortable silence in which to let go of the worries of the moment. Both Shanna and Rob know when to listen, when to speak, and when to be quiet.
At the end of a treatment we often provide home-care advice which may consist of:
- Stretches for tight muscles.
- Strengthening exercises for weak muscles.
- Application of ice or heat for pain relief, to treat inflammation, or to relax muscles.
- Postural awareness exercises.
- Breath exercises.
- Ergonomic advice to change postural habits at work.
- Recommendations to seek treatment from other therapists including physiotherapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, family doctors, or other medical specialists.
Massage therapy is a very effective treatment for a wide variety of conditions. Just about everyone can benefit in some way from therapeutic massage.
Massage therapy can often effectively and completely resolve the following conditions:
- Tension headache.
- Low back pain or spasm.
- General muscular aches, tension, or spasm.
- Postural problems.
- Limited range of motion in joints.
- Sports injuries such as sprains, strains, or bruises.
- Overuse injuries such as tendinitis or bursitis.
- Pain or dysfunction caused by scar tissue from old injuries or surgeries.
Massage therapy can effectively treat more complex conditions, and is especially effective when combined with treatments by physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, or medical specialists:
- Whiplash and other complications resulting from motor vehicle accidents.
- Neurological disorders involving nerve compression such as carpal tunnel or sciatica.
- Conditions involving damaged or misaligned spinal vertebrae or discs.
- Serious sports injuries such as shoulder dislocations, ligament or meniscus tears in the knee, torn Achilles tendons, etc.
- Recovery from hip or knee replacement.
Massage therapy can help reduce the severity, intensity and frequency of symptoms in conditions such as:
- Complex regional pain syndrome.
- Other conditions involving chronic pain such as migraines.
- Disorders involving excess swelling or inflammation, such as after surgeries removing lymph glands.
- Mood disorders especially those involving anxiety.
Although there are some chronic long term conditions that massage therapy cannot cure, we can often make a big difference in your quality of life by helping manage your symptoms:
- Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lupus.
- Permanent neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, paralyzation.
- Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Parkinson’s disease.