Ever since I read that massage dosing study a couple of months ago, I have been really eager to try it out in my practice. Naturally, I need the right client to test it out with (and I think it will take a while before I can find someone who has the time to come in twice a week for four weeks); but I just love the idea of working so closely with someone to help them get relief from pain.
Another point I’d like to take from this article is the unrealistic expectations we sometimes have about massage. I’ve been a professional massage therapist for over seven years, and I still sometimes fall prey to this assumption that I can fix* a problem someone is having in one session. Sometimes it does happen that way. That’s great! But that needs to be an exception rather than the rule.
Particularly in the case of chronic pain like they studied for the paper, it can be really easy to overdo the work. To put more stress on the body instead of bringing relief. By having lots of massages of sufficient length in a short period of time, it frees up massage therapist and client to move the goal posts a little closer. Let’s try to take your pain level from a 7 to a 5 or a 6, then take it down another point or two (I made these numbers up for the purpose of illustrating my point).
One thing that I have definitely seen in tracking the outcomes for my clients is the importance of working very mindfully with chronic pain. It’s a complicated physiological condition, and approaching it with a battering ram hasn’t worked nearly as well for people as approaching it more like peeling an onion. (Side note: improve use of similes and metaphors- yikes.)
The final cool thing I want to point out about this study is the way those effective 60 minute massages were applied. They did focus on the neck, including using deep techniques, and then they spent the rest of the time doing soothing strokes to the rest of the client’s body. I’d guess it made the sessions more relaxing for the subjects than they otherwise might have been. It also goes back to a much older study (which I probably won’t be able to find quickly enough) which demonstrated that full body massage was equally as effective as targeted massage for low-back pain. Pretty cool, right?
*The concept of a massage therapist “fixing” a client’s body is probably the topic of its own post. For now, suffice to say that I don’t see my profession in those terms.