Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Massage Junkies

Before being a physical therapist (PT), I was a licensed massage therapist for 13 years. In that time, I discovered what an amazing tool massage is in relieving pain, lowering stress levels, facilitating length in muscles and, in general, giving back to a person a deep sense of health and human connection....Temporarily.
That is the key-word -- TEMPORARILY. 
Massage can be a powerful ally in PT, but because it is a passive therapy, the person receiving the massage is reliant on someone else's hands and elbows to give them relief. The analogy would be, the massage therapist is the guy with the bucket in a boat trying to unload the boat from taking on water, whereas in physical therapy, the PT, through therapeutic exercise and patient education gives the patient the rudder of the boat and shows the patient how to steer her/himself out of troubled waters.
In other words, the PT empowers patients by giving them knowledge to help themselves so that when they are on their own, they can continue to take care of themselves. That is altruism at its best, which is one of the reasons why as a massage therapist, I wanted to graduate to become a physical therapist. The beauty of this is that the PT and the patient become 'A TEAM' that works together in achieving the patients' goals.
This brings me to you --- our dear patients at Duffy & Bracken and the topic of massage. Duffy and Bracken is a manual clinic, which means that we specialize in hands on techniques. It would be easy to falsely assume that because we are manual PT's, that we perform a lot of massage when we treat you. Manual therapy actually means that the PT, through their hands and eyes, assess and diagnose a patient.
From that assessment, we choose what would most help you, which may or may not include massage. So what this means to you as the patient and team member in your re-hab, is to resist thinking that the massage is the centerpiece of your session. We realize how difficult it is when massage can feel so good, but think long-term. Would you rather have the quick temporary fix, or would you rather invest long-term and actually address the real reason why you came to physical therapy in the first place? (Please answer, "yes" to the latter!)
Also trust your therapist if he or she one day decides not to do massage. Your PT may have decided that massage would actually make your symptoms worse. In general, we do indeed encourage you to seek out a good massage therapist to act as an ally in your rehab. We can always refer you to one if you are unsure of where to look. In fact, we offer massages on Tuesdays and Fridays here at Duffy and Bracken. In the meantime, we ask you to not become a Massage Junkie and sell your PT short of their skills by thinking that all you should be doing at PT is lying down on the table to get the "rub".

John Howard (Johann), DPT, LMT

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