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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Finding a good masseur

I often use massage when helping clients with their injury problems like shin splints and low back pain. It is one of the most effective tools for prevention and recovery from muscluloskeletal injuries.
One of the most frequent requests received is who else, other than myself, can I recommend as a good masseur. This is never easy to answer because there is never one masseur that suits every one and it is impossible to recommend someone in a place other than Wellington. The advice I give is to shop around until you find a masseur who "does it for you". In making this recommendation, I offer a few rules of thumb:
  • Ask about their qualifications. Ideally, they should have completed a course that is recognised by the local qualifications authority. However, this is not always the case and you must not be too quick to judge. In some instances, some the best massage therapists I have ever found are either self taught or come out of places like the Pacific Islands, China and Eastern Europe with wierd qualifications (or none at all) that will never receive official recognition in the West.
  • Time spent massaging = quality.One of the reasons most physical therapy treatments don't work is because proper treatment takes time. If the therapy (including massage) is less than 30 minutes, or if the therapist relies on fancy machines, drugs and potions, then it probably is not good enough for you. Effective massage requires time spent with the hands on the body. An hour is a good start and 40 minutes ongoing would be acceptable.
  • Choose somebody with strong hands. A proper massage is not a tickle and rub: It requires strength and stamina to progressively work into the knotted ligaments, muscles and tendons and to soften and separate them from surrounding structures. This takes time and a lot of energy by the masseur.
  • Stay away from masseurs that hurt. While it is essential that the masseur works to break down knots, scars and trigger points, this should be a progressive process. If the masseur dives right in to pummel out a painful trigger point with their elbow and various torture tools, this will only cause the muscle to tense and tighten. A good masseur will carefully and progressively work on the painful spots for as long as 1/2 and hour at a time, steadily increasing the pressure as the muscle relaxes and the knots soften. While this process can be very unpleasant you must be able to relax the muscles; if you feel yourself tensing, crying out in pain, or tears are welling, then the masseur is overdoing it.
  • No manipulation! Especially if this is to the neck or any other part of the spine. The only exception is if it is done by a trained professional who has several years of formal training in the procedure. The best professionals for doing this procedure safely and effectively are chiropractors and osteopaths. I am very wary of others, including most physiotherapists and doctors with additional qualifications in spinal manipulation. Their hours of formal training in this potentially hazardous procedure simply do not compare to the training undertaken by a chiropractor or osteopath. When it comes to spinal manipulation, my advice is to stick to the experienced specialist.
  • Give it time. Apply the 21 day rule. This means 2-3 massages per week for 3 weeks. If the massage is going to be beneficial, you will know for sure by 21 days. By 21 days, any knots, trigger points and injuries should be noticeably improved; you will be feeling great and will be moving and exercising much more freely and for longer. Ongoing 1-2 massages per week of the hard working areas is one of the most effective ways to keep tthe musculoskeletal system working well.
  • Check out your diet while you are at it. If you are troubled with painful knots and general aches and pains, you may have depleted your body of essential nutrients, including B vitamins and minerals, including magnesium. By doing a course of boosting your body's stores of various nutrients, you might be amazed at the difference this makes to how your body feels, especially the way your body handles stress and hard physical activity. All of what you need is available from my store.
Save yourself some money: Once you have learned what works for you by seeing a trained professional and once you are on top of your problems, why not coach your partner or a friend how to do, say, your knotted shoulders? Then return the favour. This sort of contra deal is always welcomed!


Unknown said...

Do you have any evidence to back up your claim that "..most physical therapy treatments don't work.."? Or is that just opinion?

Gary Moller said...

Opinion based on 30yrs experience. Most people get better of their own accord or merely give up. Govt and insurance subsidies lead to sloppy treatments. If 100% user pays, then there would be a huge improvement.
That's my opinion for what its worth.