Massage & Bodywork


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70 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j a n u a r y/ fe b r u a r y 2 0 24 Skin is the first thing we touch in every massage, even if our intentions and pressure run deeper. Though skin is a mere 1–3 millimeters thick in most areas, 1 it's the largest organ in the human body and accounts for 15 percent of our body weight. Richly supplied with lymph and blood networks and packed with sensory nerve endings, skin serves as a key player in the immune system and easily ranks as one of the body's most sensitive organs. But perhaps more importantly, the skin is the canvas upon which we paint our strokes, the first responder to our touch, and the primary vehicle for our clients' experience of relaxation. If we fail to consider how we attend to those first few millimeters of touch in the skin, we might be missing out on one of the most accessible ways to positively affect our clients' health and well-being. Let's explore the skin's rich anatomy as we consider how to make the most of every inch. TWO TYPES OF SKIN Regardless of age, ethnicity, pigmentation, or lifestyle factors, skin on every body comprises two types that are consistently found in the same specific regions: hairy skin and glabrous skin. critical thinking | Anatomy for Touch Skin reflected. After carefully separating the skin ligaments that connect the dermis to the underlying layers, we can examine both sides of the skin. On the superficial side, we see the protective epidermis on the left. Full of sensory nerve endings, it's the first tissue we touch. On the deep side, we get a good view of the thicker, tougher, deep surface of the dermis, with its undulating texture exposed as it is reflected from the bubbly adipose lobules of the subcutaneous tissue on the right. Image courtesy of The First Millimeters of Every Massage Giving Skin the Attention It Deserves By Nicole Trombley and Rachelle Clauson 1 Hairy Skin Hairy skin covers 90 percent of the body. 2 In some areas, the hair is coarse and obvious, but in others, it is so fine that it's barely visible. Body hair can sometimes seem like it gets in the way of bodywork, but when we look at the anatomy, hair plays an important role in our sense of touch due to the sensory nerves that wrap around each hair follicle. Like a cat's whiskers, the hair extends beyond the surface of the skin and mechanically relays any movement—from a breeze, a wandering ladybug, or a light massage stroke—directly to the sensory nerve at its root. Even if the skin itself is not touched, the nerve fires, providing very subtle information about the environment. KEY POINT • While our work often revolves around deeper tissues, special attention should be paid to the skin, the first responder to our touch.

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