Massage Therapy and Traction

Massage Therapy and Traction

The very definition of traction reads like instructions for a torture technique. Terms like prolonged pulling and adhesive friction conjure up thoughts of a painful afternoon spent with a cantankerous therapist named Helga, which I’m sure is no one’s idea of a good time.

Traction Therapy is most often associated with Sports & Injury Therapy, generally administered by Medical Massage Therapists, Osteopaths, and Physical and Occupational Therapists. It is thought to be one of those “no pain, no gain” style of therapies, like Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Therapy or Rolfing.

This presumption is generally accurate, and its aggressive approach frequently restricts application for those with contraindications, such as pinched nerves, injured or compromised vertebrae, bone weakening conditions, varicose veins, etc., etc.

So, how do you provide the benefits of an aggressive therapy on a patient whose condition has the potential to be significantly compromised by applying such therapies? That’s easy ~ modification!

If you already clicked on the Rolfing link above, you know it was developed as a result of compromise from necessity. Ms. Rolf had developed what the doctors of her time determined to be an untreatable condition, and she was going to just have to accept and live with whatever fate had offered her. Thankfully, Ida was a bit of a firecracker, and was not going to take being paralyzed, well,…sitting down, and in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

She was determined to overcome her disability any way she could, in a way that her poor, injured body could handle. By experimenting with techniques that worked with her body and its reactions, she developed a customized path to her own recovery.

Inspired by Ms. Rolf and other innovators, and frustrated with the restrictions of my clients’ impediments, I began to develop my own methods of therapy to accommodate those contraindicated exceptions.

Enrolled in a 700-hour advanced Massage Therapy program, I was provided specialized training in traditional Eastern modalities. Our Shiatsu instructor employed a Zen Shiatsu technique that immediately dispelled all my preconceptions about the applied therapy, which fatefully changed my entire professional perspective.

I found even the most vulnerable subjects could be treated with Zen Shiatsu, and astonishing results could be definitively measured by both practitioner and client. It proved to be a valuable stepping stone by which I could guide my clients to their next level of healing.

I consistently observed that the benefits of this technique would reach a plateau and then level off, still within a desirable range of wellness, but not enough of an improvement for my standards. I began interjecting modified maneuvers from clinical modalities into the sessions, gradually increasing their integration and intensity to the limit my client was able to comfortably withstand.

I have since incorporated several additional variant techniques that complement my approach and intended purposes, optimizing its effectiveness. It has ushered people from injury to full mobility within a handful of sessions, and operates in a manner that is minimally invasive and virtually painless. It allows my clients to dictate their own rehabilitation in accordance with their potential and endurance.

It continues to be a “technique in progress,” and I believe it will always be so ~ as long as there are individuals willing to be subjects in my endless quest for the perfect massage!



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  1. Shama Kern says:

    Traction is quite commonly used in Thai Massage as well. It’s not the “aggressive” kind but is actually pleasant to experience.

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