Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2023

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88 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 3 Massage therapists, both rookie and veteran alike, tend to struggle with an age-old pattern: We limit ourselves to primarily using our palms, thumbs, and fingers. Too often we forgo (or at least underutilize) other anatomical tools at our disposal. Any artist will likely tell you it takes a collection of tools and supplies to create a masterpiece. For example, if you are painting a picture, you'll have a brush for covering large areas quickly, a brush for smaller areas and fine details, a brush for creating crisp lines, and a brush for smoothing or spreading color. Perhaps it is possible to use one universally adaptable brush to accomplish most or all of these tasks, but the final product probably won't possess the same level of complexity. The same can be said for anatomical tools in massage. In addition to palms, thumbs, and fingers, our fists, knuckles, forearms, and elbows are essential supplies in our creative toolkit that provide just the right stroke to meet the intended outcome. Let's consider the benefits of variety, then look deeper into a few anatomical tools, including how and when to use each option. THE BENEFIT OF VARIETY One benefit of variety is avoiding injury. Just as the bristles of a brush would fray if you exclusively used that brush to paint, using the same anatomical tools repeatedly will eventually cause them (most commonly the joint component) to be compromised. Worn-out joints means your workday suddenly becomes a painful struggle instead of a joyful act of creating change. Another benefit to using a variety of tools is that it creates complexity in your work. A forearm creates a different sensation than the palm of the hand. An elbow feels different than a thumb or a knuckle. Some tools are best for broad, dense areas, and some are better for fine-tuned details. essential skills | BACK TO BASICS Tools of the Craft Expanding Your Variety of Massage Application By Cindy Williams Even within those categories of broad and specific, there is variety. Applying the specific approach of direct, sustained compression on an ischemic trigger point is different than using a specific frictional or shearing force on an area of adhesion. Not only does each one feel distinct, but the purpose and outcome of each is also distinct. Similarly, using a tool that provides detail in an area where a broad stroke would be more effective is faulty. I have experienced thumbs being used to perform a long gliding stroke up my hamstrings and it neither felt good nor supported appropriate tissue release. Knowing the uses and benefits of each stroke and discerning which anatomical tools are best to employ to meet intended aims are skills that are wise to cultivate. Note: While we are currently only discussing variety in the context of anatomical tools, keep in mind that the same can be said for using a variety of lubricants, bolsters, and techniques. A BASIC TOOL TUTORIAL Here we will focus on four tools: soft fists, knuckles, forearms, and elbows. Soft fist

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