Massage & Bodywork

JULY | AUGUST 2021

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90 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j u l y/a u g u s t 2 0 2 1 Stop Slipping and Sliding Get a Firm Grip on Finger and Forearm Techniques BY ERIK DALTON, PHD Have you ever noticed your fingers cramping or forearms slipping along the surface of the client's skin when attempting to apply deep-tissue techniques? For several years, I observed some class participants struggling with this but was unsure how to offer specific guidance. The answer came unexpectedly one year at a workshop in Costa Rica when a student asked if I would slowly perform each of the extended finger and forearm maneuvers in a step-by-step fashion. Wow, what a novel and seemingly obvious idea! Why had I not thought of this before? I realized I had been doing these maneuvers so long I had simply skipped over a few very basic principles. Guided by this realization, I now teach hand and forearm maneuvers in every workshop and online course to help therapists deliver a deeper touch with less effort and better body mechanics. Let's deconstruct a few of them. NAIL HOOK TECHNIQUE During my basic Rolf Institute training in the early 1980s, I developed an odd routine of performing finger push-ups after class to improve my finger strength and stamina, but it seemed to make little difference. I was never able to get a good, sturdy "hook" in the connective tissues underlying the skin. One day I discovered if I flexed my fingers and engaged the tissues as if I were digging in with fingernails and then extended my fingers, I was able to get a much firmer lock that allowed me to lean in with my body weight instead of sliding along the skin with finger pads (Image 1). As I practiced this Nail Hook technique, I noticed that as I extended my fingertips at the distal interphalangeal joints, it technique | MYOSKELETAL ALIGNMENT TECHNIQUES transferred the energy through my forearm extensor muscles instead of my flexors. That was a big discovery I then applied to all my hands-on techniques. Now when I engage the tissues and get a good hook, I immediately firm up my forearm extensors to allow the energy to come through my body and down into the ground, making my stroke more controllable and confident (Image 2). THE FLYING V The Flying V is one of my favorite extended finger techniques. It is performed using the same principles as the Nail Hook technique, but is designed to add additional power and precision to areas that require bilateral pressure to confined spaces. In Image 3, I begin by placing my index and middle fingers on each side of the client's lamina groove and then reinforce by bracing with the index and middle fingers of my other hand. I firm up my forearm extensors, relax my shoulders, and lock in my lumbar lordosis so I can have a good mechanical advantage as I slowly glide down the transversospinalis muscles of the lamina groove. Typically, I ask my client to begin performing slow anterior and posterior pelvic tilts to help engage the brain in releasing any protective spasm in these short rotator muscles. The goal is to restore proper spinal curves while decreasing nervous system hyperexcitability. ULNA HOOK Forearm techniques are a favorite of mine. For years, I experimented with ways of getting a better tissue hook to help prevent slipping and sliding, and this is what I came up with. In Image 4, I begin the technique with my forearm supinated (palm up). As I engage the lateral border of the erector spinae tissue in this supinated position, I'm able to get a really good Ulna Hook, 1 The Nail Hook extended finger technique.

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