What if today was the first day of your education in bodywork, where you were sitting down in your first class as a budding MT/PT/OT/Whatever T? Your instructor started the lecture with “You know all of those hard/ropy/toughened areas that we feel under the skin? Well the best thing to get rid of those is light, sustained pressure. Make it light enough so that the nervous system does not view it as a threat. If you dig in too deeply, you are only exacerbating things.”…what would you think? If you had no preconceived notions as to how to best deal with this situation, it would make sense, right?
I know many of you (myself included) were taught that the only way to rid the body of deep tissue tightness is through deep tissue massage/soft tissue mobilization, or whatever term you use to denote AGGRESSIVE WORK!
Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ryan Hoyme, AKA The Massage Nerd. Great guy, by the way. This morning I had the time to read through the text from the live chat that is happening as the interview is taking place. There seemed to be a considerable amount of disbelief that light pressure can rid the body of the tough stuff, the Beef Jerky. (That was a descriptor one of the chatters used) You know what I’m talking about; the leathery, gristly, gritty tissue that feels more like beef jerky than muscle. I was taught in physical therapy school a variety of interventions to deal with this, thinking that the goal was to break it up to reduce pain and improve range of motion/function. I was taught in my MFR training that the lighter techniques will get to most of the “fascial restriction”, but there are times when you need to roll up your sleeves and dig in the the elbows, knuckles, finger tips, etc. OUCH! So, I rolled up my sleeves and dug in for many years. Did I have results? Yes, it seemed to make a difference, but it was real hard on my body as well as on my patients. Some expected it, even asked for the deep stuff. They paid the money, who was I to argue, right?
Flash forward a few years. I found that there were less aggressive means to deal with that jerky. I coined the phrase MyoMobilization™ to speak of a more gentle method of performing soft tissue mobilization. I’ve taught this version in my seminars for the past 3-4 years and most, if not all of the therapists who have taken my classes have seen that it can be just as effective as deeper/painful work. Now, with the more recent teachings of the nervous system I’ve been exposed to, I have lightened my approach even more.
Where did the model of aggressive work come from? Is it based in research or experience? As far as I am aware, it is experimentally based. And, WHAT exactly is that beef jerky? Some call it scar tissue, others describe it as a dried up (dehydration) mass of muscle. I’m sure all of you could supply me with many more descriptors, based on what you were taught. But, what if someone had taught you, from the beginning, that gentle pressure was not only sufficient to make change, but actually superior, because no one got hurt in the process? I think that would have changed a lot of attitudes. We can’t undo what we were taught. But, we can change what we believe today.
A suggestion: Give the gentle method a fair trial. Myofascial release or other forms of bodywork, performed with a lighter touch will produce similar, if not better results. See if the beef jerky changes. Your money back if not satisfied!
Walt Fritz, PT