Massage Therapy is one of the few professions that takes a similar approach to the Functional Medicine field. Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs) cover from a lens view many aspects of a patient’s health terrain, including a health history of each body system on an intake form to fully understand the scope of a current treatment because symptoms do not exist in isolation. In addition, RMTs follow a somewhat similar approach to the therapeutic session in that they continually assess, recommend, and track healing. This is called ART of the practice in the Functional field and also defines what functional means in that things are not static and continually evolve and need a framework to help uncover causes of dysfunction.
Time is on the RMT’s side in being able to have longer appointments to fully understand a patient’s story, again similar to the Functional Field. Time also helps to build an empathetic bridge between the patient and therapist along with trust by being openly heard in a safe atmosphere. RMT appointments last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes and in that time therapists can learn about how a condition may have started or its roots of inception. Roots are important to find out how an injury may have started in the soft tissue.
Lifestyle aspects are also key for RMTs because they promote active homecare exercise so that the work they have done to help the patient can be further enhanced by mobility. How someone breathes or how they hold their posture and stay active is vital for longevity and wellness.
RMTs spend time with patients, oodles of it, during sessions. This may foster discussions surrounding other related health issues that a shorter assessment might have missed. RMTs help physicians in this way by screening one’s health and referring back to the GP when necessary. Often, notations to GPs are made by the RMT to query the problem they have identified. In this way referring back to a GP or other healthcare practitioners is another vital part of an RMTs job.
RMTs are vital in the health care system for prevention and over the past few decades, many now know and trust that they are in good hands when they see the title “RMT” alongside business service advertisements or when they call a business and ask for one in seeking a safe and effective treatment. From a functional lens in assessment to recommendations based on best evidence-based practice, RMTs are leaders in the manual field of care. In BC, they are respected worldwide for their education in Clinical Sciences, and because people often get better so they can enjoy a sport or better flexibility for years to come. With a broad set of skillsets to a trained listening ear, RMTs are a great option for those seeking help for soft tissue dysfunction.
We all suffer injuries at some point in our life, and I’m no exception. When I was asked by many of my patients the best modality that helped me recover from a broken leg, I would have to say it was fascial work. I respect the fascia when treating it and this is why I advocate for a slower gentle approach that focuses on holding and stretching the tissue, thereby giving the nervous system a chance to catch up so a more sustained change can take place. Fascia houses nervous tissue and sensory receptors as evidenced by a world-renowned Anatomist Dr. Carla Stecco. This is often why treatment will reveal larger extension patterns to primary pain areas that often appear unrelated. Truly fascial tissue is a bridge connecting many anatomical areas. In other words, the pain might be felt in a leg even if treatment is occurring to the low back.
“After two decades using many clinical soft-tissue treatment techniques, fascial work is my favorite because it works”.
Often when we combine massage therapy techniques like fascial release, active release therapy (ART), joint play, and moist heat, we get closer to the root cause of the issue because each of these treatments offers a different tact to target adhered or hyper-toned tissue bands. I believe that fascia has a direct reflex response on a conscious and subconscious level as many subsidiary issues resolve secondary to a primary injury when fascial work is applied. Fascial work could even be called a body tissue reset.
Like the bark of a tree having inner and outer layers, fascial tissue is similar. It too has an inner and outer structure. It is a complex array of hydrated tissue containing hyaluronic acid, similar to that found in joints. It surrounds every muscle fiber and houses important sensory and neural structures. This is why it is important to treat in athletic injuries because tissues need to work in harmony and feel good to have that competitive edge. Fascia is not a structure solely on its own and it could be considered a major communicator of our tissues translating the health of individual tissues by referring messages to our brain. Little, “Hello, I’m here pokes” when you feel discomfort or referred pain.
Fascia, when dysfunctional, is one of the major players in Central Sensitization Syndrome, previously known as Fibromyalgia. Fascia can be like a lightbulb registering the health of underlying tissues and giving us early warning signals. Movement is key to keeping this structure supple. That’s why yoga is so crucial in sports.
So the next time you have an athletic injury or even stiffness from an active lifestyle, keep fascial treatment in mind. I have seen exceptional results with this technique over two decades. Nothing is a quick fix but fascial tissue work is gentle and moves the tissue with a silent barrage of light touch to change its hydration status lending to improvements often felt by patients.