Body Strain and Massage
Massage is one of the easiest professions in which to strain your body and to wear yourself out. It is a physically demanding activity and unfortunately has too often been taught in a way that puts undue strain on the practitioner's body.
How practitioners use their own bodies as they massage has been neglected in much massage teaching until recent years. The focus was primarily on massage techniques, with little or no consideration given to the practitioner's ease and comfort in delivering them. And teachers are often obliged to teach a set routine, with no adaptations to the build and abilities of the individual student. Many people therefore come out of massage training believing that every massage must follow a set routine, and/or that there are certain strokes that must always be done - no matter the build or needs of the client, and no matter how much it strains the practitioner's own body. This attitude is often reinforced by the demands of work situations. For example, practitioners who are employed to do 'on- site'massages in offices are often required to work to a strict routine.
In medical insurance cases, practitioners are often expected to work in a set way to deliver the outcomes defined by the insurance company. And many health clinics and spas require practitioners to fit in with the 'house style'.
Practitioners have only recently begun to realise that they can strain and damage their bodies in this field of work. The growing numbers of people working in massage in recent decades has also seen a small but increasing number of massage practitioners who have had to retire early due to work-related strains, particularly in their hands.
It is the cumulative effect of poor working habits that cause these stresses and strains to the body. So it is important to develop an attitude of working defensively - considering the toll on your body of doing particular strokes for an extended time and of regularly working on people with significantly larger builds than yourself.
Practitioners'abilities will also be affected by their build. Practitioners with the 'ideal' massage build of a large, strong body and hands may never encounter problems in their careers. A short but robust or wiry build is also likely to sustain a practitioner through years of doing massage without problems.
Until recently, most masseurs and masseuses working in public baths and saunas throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, were people with these builds and were accustomed to hard physical work. Practitioners with these builds will find the information in this book helpful in maintaining their energy and ease in doing massage.
However practitioners with other builds need to be more careful about how they use their bodies and hands. So do those with old injuries or particular weaknesses. This book is written very much to help these practitioners look after their bodies and maintain their careers - to acquaint them with the potential problems in doing massage and ways of minimising or avoiding these. When the potential dangers of performing massage are spelled out, as I have done in this book, people can become scared of it. It is not my intention to put people off doing massage. However, I think that it is important to approach it respectfully and defensively, armed with a realistic perspective, good information and the skill of self-monitoring.
This is similar to learning to drive a car, where it is important to bear in mind that it is a lethal weapon (potentially dangerous to the driver, passengers and bystanders). I do not think that this has stopped anyone from learning to drive, but hopefully it encourages people to do it with care and attention.
For further information on body strain and massage, read Dynamic Bodyuse for Effective Strain-Free Massage.