What is Bodywork?

massage photo

Bodywork is a term that encompasses all forms of manipulative therapy which aims to realign the body's structure through the soft tissue, and also includes breath work and energy work, where the practitioner may or may not touch the body.

Many bodywork and body manipulation techniques do not resemble massage. They often do not use lubrication, or incorporate the stroking, kneading or tapping that define massage. For example, Trager, zero balancing, Rolfing, cranial sacral therapy, Alexander Technique, traditional Thai massage, shiatzu are all hands-on methods that use non-oil techniques such as rocking, stretching, pressure, or simple touch.

Healing Touch and Reiki are forms of bodywork that do not manipulate the muscles or even the tissue, but work with the human energy field.

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is one form of bodywork, though there can be many types of massage. Generally, massage is "to treat or manipulate soft tissue by stroking, pressing, tapping, kneading, rubbing or friction with the hand, elbows, thumb or a tool that mimic the action of the hand, using oil or some other lubricant to smooth the strokes and decrease friction on the skin."

In massage, the therapist is generally focused on the relaxation of the muscular and nervous system, often searching for tight muscles or painful areas, and using deeper pressure to relax them. It can be an overall relaxing general treatment, or with deep tissue therapy or sports massage, targeted to specific parts of the body or injuries. Massage can be a useful pain management tool, as relaxation decreases stress temporarily.

In North Carolina, since the passage of licensing for Massage and Bodywork Therapists, the standard for entry into the profession is 500 hours of training, with 24 hours of continuing education every two years.

What is the fascial/connective tissue system?

connective tissue illustration

Here's a riddle. What's the most abundant protein in the world, connects your chin to your toe, your stomach to your ear, your brain to your liver and connects all of them to each other at the same time? Could the pain in your knee somehow be related to your migraines?

Most people have never heard of fascia, (pronounced 'FASH-uh'), though the term 'plantarfasciitis' (pain on the bottom of the foot) is more familiar. However, the fascia on the bottom of the foot is just a small part of connective tissue system, which forms a living matrix that is present in every part of the body. It surrounds and interpenetrates all of the organs, bones, nerves, blood vessels, lymph glands, bones and muscles, even into the cell membranes. It holds the organs in place, forms the joints, surrounds the cardiovascular system and envelopes the brain. Researchers have found that fascia is a vast communication complex, which connects all the body's systems to each other with its many types of fibers and various sensory receptors.

The connective tissue system can be compared to a large 3-D net. It absorbs shocks and distributes the forces that impact us every time we take a step. A tug or strain in one part of the net is communicated to all other parts of the net, and effects the flow of fluids, the space within joints, and all other body processes. The system is quite resilient, and generally allows our bodies to withstand a wide range of events and insults. However, when we have reached the limit of our ability to compensate, pain and dysfunction result.

With their extensive anatomical knowledge and highly developed palpation skills, Mechanical Link practitioners are able to find the point of greatest restriction in the fascia/connective tissue system and release it. You might find out that the pain in your knee AND your migraines are related both related to the scar on your head from a long-ago accident in third grade, for example. It's all connected!

What is Osteopathy?

A. T. Still, M.D. Father of Osteopathy

Osteopathy was developed in the United States by Andrew Taylor Still, in the period after the Civil War. At that time, what we now call "Western medicine" was still in its infancy. Anesthesia using ether or chloroform was a recent discovery, there were no antibiotics, and physicians often went from dissecting cadavers to assisting women in labor. Medicines were toxic materials containing mercury or arsenic, or harmless herb based medicines such as peppermint, and bleeding and purging were still common practices by physicians.

Still's idea was that the body should be viewed as a whole, a 'functional unit' that had the ability to heal itself if treated correctly. He proceeded to treat his patients through manipulation to correct poor biomechanics and improve circulation. He found that he could get good results without resorting to drugs.

Osteopathy can be seen as a philosophy, rather than a treatment form or a collection of techniques. It is this philosophy that guides the practice of Mechanical Link, which was developed by French osteopaths. Canadian, British and European schools of osteopathy teach medicine from the approach developed by Still, whereas in the USA the field was suppressed and subsumed by the American Medical Association.

The legacy of A. T. Still's work lives on in the United States in the work of chiropractors, bodywork and massage therapists, physical therapists, and others who practice manual techniques.

"To better convey to the public that US-trained DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy) are fully licensed physicians, the term osteopathic medicine has replaced the term osteopathy in most uses and the term osteopathic physician has replaced the term osteopath. Both the terms osteopathy and osteopath are primarily used in historical context when describing the profession and its practitioners before 1960. These terms are also used to describe the profession as it is practiced outside the United States by practitioners who have not been trained at AOA-accredited osteopathic medical colleges"¹