Stretching & Massage
Adding some stretches to the massages you share with your family at home is an easy way to make the massage sessions more effective. It also adds variety and interest to the massage.
We taught our massage students several different approaches to applying stretches. The two that make sense for the average person at home to apply are passive and assisted stretching.
With passive stretching your partner relaxes while you perform a stretch of a joint – the hip for example. With assisted stretching, once your reach the end point of the stretch your partner adds a little more when you approach the end point by actively moving their joint further into the direction you have been stretching, as long as no pain is felt in the process. SO, if you are stretching their arm overhead you can have them reach overhead as you are gently pulling on their arm. This approach is great for people who like to help when they get a massage because they feel like they are doing something to assist you and not just laying there. For old and young alike it keeps them engaged and active.
General principles of passive stretching:
Move slowly through the pain-free range of motion to the point of restriction or resistance.
Grasp above and below the affected joint.
Firmly stabilize body areas to be stretched
Apply the stretch in a gentle, slow and deliberate manner taking the part to the point of resistance and just beyond.
Hold the stretched position for 15 seconds minimum.
Gradually release the stretching force.
Allow a brief period of rest between repetitions.
Precautions for applying stretching techniques:
Do not force a joint beyond its normal range of motion.
Avoid stretching people with osteoporosis, those who have used steroids for a prolonged period, and pregnancy.
Avoid vigorous stretching of muscles and connective tissues that have been immobilized for prolonged periods.
Do not continue stretch if pain is reported.
Avoid stretching swollen tissues.
Avoid stretching weak muscles, especially those that are postural in nature.
Benefits/indications to applying stretching techniques:
Increase range of motion of a joint when restriction is due to contracted musculature or congested tissue.
When there is muscle weakness and opposing tissue tightness.
Prevent injury to tendinous structures.
Assess areas of tightness to better focus massage therapy techniques.
Traction affects ligaments specifically and muscles generally.
Movement helps to reduce stress due to its effect on circulatory, respiratory, muscular and nervous systems.
When to perform stretching techniques:
Before starting the massage, as a means of evaluating tissue tension and range of motion.
During the massage, as a means of elongating the warmed and decongested tissues.
At the end of the massage, as a means of establishing a new awareness of length and relaxation in the recipient’s mind.
Guidelines for stretching:
More is not necessarily better. Quality of movement is the key.
Never move beyond or through the pain threshold. Pain is a signal to be noted and questioned.
Concentration is important for awareness. Feedback assists improvement. If quality of movement “breaks down”, take note of it and attempt to improve it with subsequent repetitions. Otherwise, STOP!
Movements should be slow, graceful and without “jerking”.
Flexibility varies considerably between individuals. Adjust accordingly and work for painless and peaceful experience. Stretching performed incorrectly can lead to more irritation than good