The human body’s ability to protect itself can often slow the recovery process and may even cause further issues post-healing. Muscles and soft tissue that becomes dysfunctional or damaged through injury, over work or through strains is often supported and aided by other structures. Our bodies do not always know when to tell other muscle structures to stop supporting the original injury. Therefore, pain and loss of movement may continue long after the original injury has healed.
Quite often when a client presents a condition to be treated, it can be further complicated by a number of previous injuries and issues, such as scar tissue, adhesions and stress.
This is one of the great principals of remedial massage. Although the initial injury may be straight forward, the presenting condition is often more complex and may be the result of a combination of other issues.
I see examples of this principle regularly with my clients:
Client A came to us for treatment on the recommendation of his physiotherapist after back surgery. He was concerned that the surgery hadn’t worked because he was still experiencing sciatica and that he may have to learn to live with this condition.
The consultation and muscle tests revealed that it was likely that his sciatica was caused by the prolonged post-surgery recovery. This resulted in shortening of his quadriceps, which in turn caused a muscle in the pelvis to impinge on the sciatic nerve.
We agreed a treatment plan to treat the quadriceps and piriformis and followed this up with some simple exercise to maintain his mobility. Now Client A is pain free and the sciatica is gone.
Client B was into muscle development and body building. He was experiencing shoulder and neck pain, which he logically thought was caused by “over doing” weights in the gym. Therefore, he wanted to know if he should ease off, modify his routine or try regular massage to resolve the problem.
During the consultation it was revealed that the cause of the problem was nothing to do with his time in the gym but was caused by a very simple lifestyle issue. When relaxing at home, he would sit on a sofa watching TV or playing on a games console. Sofas are well known for causing back problems for several reasons:
1. Lack of support for the arms.
Even if we sit at one end of the sofa, its arms tend to be too low to give support to the person’s arms. This means that the full weight of the arms is pulling down on the shoulder. This isn’t so much of a problem if the arms are close to the body, but due to leverage the effect of weight is greater as they become outstretched. Therefore, if you are holding a game controller, your arms tend to be at the front of your body and increasing the leverage on the shoulders. Neck and shoulder pain can result due to the lack of support for your arms.
2. Lack of lumbar support.
The lower back needs help to support the natural curvature of the spine. Normally, the back is strong enough to support itself if we sit correctly and it shouldn’t be a problem. But human nature is to slump and take up a posture the does not support the lower back when relaxing.
3. Lack of alignment.
There are almost an infinite number of positions we can take up on a sofa while relaxing. For example, if you lean to one side, the spine is held in a different curve to its natural one. This keeps some muscles relaxed and others under tension, causing the supporting structures for the spine to be put under stress.
Together these three factors will contribute to back pain, and depending on your seating position will determine if you will be affected by lower or upper back pain, or a combination of both.
With Client B, it was upper back pain that was the outcome of his poor posture. The results of the consultation and postural analysis enabled us to devise a treatment plan to resolve his shoulder and neck pain.
Remedial Massage Principle
The symptoms of a problem do not always point to the cause, and it may be due to a number of issues. Sometimes musculoskeletal problems build up over years before they result in pain. The body’s own healing mechanisms can often contribute to the condition and “mask” some of the underlying causes.
The remedial massage therapist has a number of techniques and tests they can use to identify the underlying cause and its contributing factors. This means the condition can be treated with a combination of traditional and advanced massage techniques to provide a long-term outcome.