The first thing that I work with my apprentice therapists on is slowing down. Mostly this means slowing down in their actual techniques. As with anything, this is not absolute. However, it has been something that has been a massive component in the successes I have had treating patients.
Most people that come in for an orthopedic massage therapy session are either acute with an injury, or they have long term dysfunctional holding patterns that have become part of what is normal to them. In, this situation the body is either actively protecting the injury site or does not want to give up the holding patterns because it is what has been holding everything together. With either condition, there is often subconscious mental guarding present that needs to be overcome.
Faster is Not Always Better
Faster techniques can have a few downfalls. They can cause the body to resist the treatment. This can be physical or psychosomatic guarding. Faster treatment can signify more danger to the body. In this situation, your patient will get less out of the therapy because their body will not feel that it is safe to let go. If you go too fast and the body doesn’t feel safe, then the patient can subconsciously work against you.
Slowing down helps you to sink in. Also, going faster causes you to work harder because you have to push harder to get deeper. This means that your patient is also feeling this more aggressive treatment. Tissues don’t always separate fast enough so by going too fast you can cause damage by going too deep before the body is ready, causing more injury instead of helping.
I have had countless patients tell me that they have to recover after a massage therapy session. They don’t mean they have to recover from orthopedic changes, they mean they have to recover because their body feels like they have been beaten up. This should not be the case if the therapist slows down.
When Not to Stimulate
Sometimes going fast is more stimulating to the patient and that can feel amazing, and there are a lot of massage techniques specifically designed for that, but that is not the goal of an orthopedic session. You are correcting an issue, not making someone feel good. Again, orthopedic work shouldn’t ever hurt, and it’s always more productive if the patient is more relaxed, but making the patient feel fantastic while on the table is not the goal in an orthopedic session. Going faster causes you to have to push instead of sinking into the tissue naturally. This takes a toll on your body as well as your patients.
Fast stimulating massage can also prevent the patients from falling asleep. Often times you see the most benefits and the most releases when the patient falls into the healing state of sleep.
There is a lot of things that get missed by going too fast. A patient’s body is constantly giving out signals. If you are going too fast, you will miss them. There are so many spots that are critical. A nasty trigger point might be tiny and easy to miss if you go over it quickly. Some of the feedback might be ques from the body. Are they resisting? Is it stressful? Do they like this? Do they not?
If you are going fast, you are likely to miss the body’s subtle responses to your treatments. Even if you do catch a response, you may not be able to identify what the body is responding to when you are rapidly moving through treatments.
The faster you go, the easier it is to hit something and cause pain accidentally. Often times, when you are moving fast your momentum can jostle the body. For a patient that is hyperacute, this can produce an enormous amount of discomfort. This causes them to sit there and guard and resist the treatments.
Slowing down your treatment is so crucial to being effective at your job. Join me here in my Facebook group. We have a great group of therapists that learn from each other, support each other and are working to be better at their job’s every day.