Body muscle respond to three main things:
1. Pressure – the application of a physical/manual pressure such as massage with hands (includes reaction to trauma force, such as getting hit in the leg with a baseball, or slipping on ice and falling hard).
2. Tension – this refers to the active contraction of a muscle, which can be done voluntarily as needed; or unconsciously as your muscles contract as you move along in your daily activities (includes areas that respond to emotional stress, such as the stomach and trapezius neck muscles).
3. Stretch –- your muscles are constantly stretching as much as they’re contracting in the course of daily living, but you’d notice it the most when you actively take the time to stretch certain areas you feel tight. Yes, this is a reminder to those who haven’t been doing their stretches … you know who you are!!
In therapy, we use this knowledge to maximize the treatment and its effectiveness by incorporating multiple techniques to get the best results. For example you may notice that RMT’s don’t always just use massage strokes … we also ask you to push or pull a limb against our resistance, or we’ll take the time to stretch certain areas after massaging it out. There is a specific technique called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitiation (P.N.F. for short) that employs a synchronized combination of contracting and stretching a muscle in order to get it loosened and lengthened – it’s a way of “tricking the system”, in this case, the musculoskeletal system. When I’m doing my own stretching and I find an area that just doesn’t want to let go because it’s too tight, I’ll massage it on the spot using my hands (or the wall, a dumbbell, a foam roller, or a rubberized weight bar). When I try stretching it again, it’s always easier – because a little bit of pressure goes a long way! I’ll also use a rope or band wrapped around my foot to stretch while lying on the floor, and this way I can alternate the stretches and contractions a la P.N.F. on myself – this is great for hamstrings, quads and hip flexors. If you’re interested in finding out more about how to utilize this in your self-care, let me know and I’ll do a demo on you.