I was lucky enough to interview Remedial Massage Therapist Todd Higgs- Patterson recently and have a treatment. Here is what happened...
JC: Hi Todd, what are clients coming in to see you for mainly this month? Is it shoulder pain, stress, injuries perhaps and what are their frustrations?
THP: What I am seeing most clients present with this month has been without a doubt upper back, neck and shoulder pain and tension. I think a combination of the extra workload that is put on everyone leading up to Xmas break plus getting back into exercise routines and becoming more active due to the warmer weather. Remember that most of us have not don’t close to the same amount of exercise of the last few months than we plan on doing over summer and jumping straight back into intense workouts and long runs without regular massage can be a recipe for injury and pain.
We all want to be fit and sexy for the beach this summer so make it easier on yourself and keep your body in check with massage and enjoy getting and staying fit and healthy.
JC: what techniques are you using to help them?
THP: The techniques I am using to overcome this stress and excessive tension in the upper body can be broken into 4 parts.
1. Relaxation and breathing
As a fair amount of this head, neck and upper body tension is caused by stress and our busy lifestyle the each session starts with encouraging the body to relax. We use deep breathing at the beginning and throughout the session to relax the mind and body and create calmness away from the workplace.
Relaxing strokes are used to relax and warm muscles and further relax the mind and body remembering that the body ‘wants’ to be in balance and not in pain and will release tension only when there is sufficient relaxation in the muscles to allow the tension to be re balanced by the work to follow.
2. Myofascial Release
The soft tissues of the body, muscles, tendons, ligaments are all interconnected body wide by a network of connective tissue called fascia and this web like tissue has several different layers that run from head to toe and from just under the skin to skeletal bone. By using techniques to release excess tension in this connective tissue we can work with larger muscle tissue more easily and with less pain than if we were to just deeply try to ‘force’ tight muscles to relax.
Joint mobilisations are used to determine restrictions in range of movement and to gently assist the body in letting go of tension held in joints of the shoulders etc. Active movement by the client is also involved in the myofascial release techniques to encourage and increase the connection and communication of fascial connections to restore tensional balance.
4. Trigger point and deep tissue
Forget the classical deep tissue excess force over shortened and tight muscles to get a deep release, as this is not what I do. Deep tissue work can be done with much less stress on the body if used after the earlier work to the fascia and in a way that works with the body and not against it. By waiting for tissue tension to ‘melt’ rather than trying to overcome it with pure force the body is more likely to let go and with less pain.
The session is then finished in the way that it began with relaxing and balancing techniques so that you leave calm and relaxed to head back to work (not that you’ll want to) or out to enjoy summer and exercise and good health.
JC: what advice and homework are you giving clients?
THP: Clients are given stretches to assist in recovery and free movement that change a little depending on the client’s pain. However I believe good stretching and exercises that target the levator scapulae are essential in most cases of neck and shoulder pain so clients are given easy stretches that can be done at home or in the office. It is about making home care easy to remember and even easier to do.
JC: My massage was amazing both relaxing and energising. All the tense areas and tightness were addressed on so that it felt like they had been worked on but not worked out :)