How much should I learn in school?

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aloha_student
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How much should I learn in school?

Post by aloha_student » Wed Aug 19, 2015 7:51 pm

At my massage school, we memorize routines to do in the clinic, but we don't talk much about how or why each stroke is done. We spent a little time covering the basics of effleurage, petrissage, etc. but for the most part we spend class time timing sequences to make sure everyone does them exactly the same way in the same amount of time. Where did the experienced LMTs learn how to put together your own massage? I'm wondering so many things, like why we put certain strokes in a certain order, how I decide what to do if a client wants extra attention to a certain body part, why do we pair things that my textbook says having opposing effects, is it ok to leave out certain things in favor of other things, why would I choose kneading or vibration instead of something else, how do you know which strokes can be used on which body parts, and on and on.

I don't want someone to try to answer all my questions, I was just wondering when you learn it all. Is there a good textbook of Swedish massage anyone knows of that explains what the purpose of each stroke is and why or when you would do it? We have a memorized spiel we're supposed to give that includes asking about issues or areas that need extra attention, but I'd have no idea what to do if someone actually answers that question. Did you all just try things out and see what works and what people like? I really like to know that what I'm doing has a purpose and intelligence to it.

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Breathe
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Re: How much should I learn in school?

Post by Breathe » Fri Aug 21, 2015 7:09 am

Hello, Aloha. You don't say how far along in your program you are, but most decent programs will spend most of your last term on (let's call it) customizing. It usually starts to happen a bit after you've had your pathology classes, or classes on massage applied to certain conditions. In my case, the first half of massage school was mostly learning by mimic. Effleurage, petrissage, percussion, etc.

This is actually really important, because learning to induce relaxation, by means of a rote swedish routine, is foundational to you being able to observe what's happening in the body and the person you are working with. Before you can even start learning how to fix things, you will need to learn how to observe through feel.

The rest, you learn through experience and pursuit of additional study. If you are most passionate about injury, learn how to do the most incredible medium pressure relaxation massage you can ever imagine, because the best skill you will bring to the table when treating injury is to help your client feel safe. Then when you are accomplished at this, read everything you can, watch youtube videos, attend technique demos, try new stuff on willing friends and family, etc.

If you have specific questions about the purpose of techniques you're using in your "best swedish massage ever," ask them here.

It's like Karate Kid. He didn't know why he was washing those cars, he just had to learn to do the best carwash ever. First.

aloha_student
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Re: How much should I learn in school?

Post by aloha_student » Fri Aug 21, 2015 11:11 am

Breathe wrote:In my case, the first half of massage school was mostly learning by mimic. Effleurage, petrissage, percussion, etc.

This is actually really important, because learning to induce relaxation, by means of a rote swedish routine, is foundational to you being able to observe what's happening in the body and the person you are working with. Before you can even start learning how to fix things, you will need to learn how to observe through feel.

It's like Karate Kid. He didn't know why he was washing those cars, he just had to learn to do the best carwash ever. First.
This makes me feel better, thank you! I can see that having a routine gives me extra mental space to think about smooth transitions, body mechanics, etc. I'm just nervous because we're at about 7 weeks, and we have to start working in the school clinic, where the public pays for our massages and then complains on Yelp, complete with student names. It makes me nervous that I don't know enough about what I'm doing to make any adjustments for people's needs. Since we're required to ask them if they have injuries, issues or special requests, I was wondering when we learn to handle those. Your advice to spend this early time paying attention to what's going on in the bodies is great, thank you!

I do have a specific question about the direction of strokes: what is the purpose of muscle stripping, and why do we work parallel in this case and cross-fiber with other strokes? My routine mixes the two often, especially with thumb kneading. My textbook says working parallel is for relaxation, and cross-fiber is more stimulating. Is that true? In that case, why would I do one after the other on the same muscle (we do this with thumb kneading on the rhomboids, for example, in our routine)

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Breathe
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Re: How much should I learn in school?

Post by Breathe » Fri Aug 21, 2015 12:26 pm

Let's see if I can remember how to do line quotes without having to edit. LOL.
aloha_student wrote: This makes me feel better, thank you! I can see that having a routine gives me extra mental space to think about smooth transitions, body mechanics, etc.
Excellent. Try also to spend some time not thinking in words, just observing and moving through. Developing a routine in massage school allows you to process through non-verbal observation. Think of these massages as a way of gathering experiential data. Each datum you collect might be meaningless in the moment, and that's okay. Over time, and with experience, all of that data will help you build what we generally label "intuition."
I'm just nervous because we're at about 7 weeks, and we have to start working in the school clinic, where the public pays for our massages and then complains on Yelp, complete with student names. It makes me nervous that I don't know enough about what I'm doing to make any adjustments for people's needs.
Recognize that this is not your failing. The school should be making each clinic client aware that these are massages from people who are in the beginning of the learning process, and to set their expectations at basic competencies for relaxation work.
Since we're required to ask them if they have injuries, issues or special requests, I was wondering when we learn to handle those. Your advice to spend this early time paying attention to what's going on in the bodies is great, thank you!
I would say this falls in the same category as above. Since students are introduced to clinic this early (and the clients are paying, I assume, a greatly reduced fee,) the clinic staff should make it clear that, although the students may be asking for information about injuries or special requests, they may not yet know what to do with that information, and that is a legitimate part of the learning process for which they should not be penalized.

If your school is not performing this task well, it's not the job of the beginners to bring it to the staff's attention, but there may be resources to help feedback get to the right ears.
I do have a specific question about the direction of strokes: what is the purpose of muscle stripping, and why do we work parallel in this case and cross-fiber with other strokes? My routine mixes the two often, especially with thumb kneading. My textbook says working parallel is for relaxation, and cross-fiber is more stimulating. Is that true? In that case, why would I do one after the other on the same muscle (we do this with thumb kneading on the rhomboids, for example, in our routine)
There are many reasons for muscle stripping, including, but not limited to: creating glide in the fascia between muscles, locating the tighter bands and focusing on encouraging relaxation, and not least - it feels good. You work in the direction of muscle fiber because we've arbitrarily decided to call this technique "muscle stripping." ;) It's one of the more common mid-level pressure techniques. Warm up the tissue with standard "swedish" techniques, prepare for deep work with variable levels of "stripping," then when the person and their body allows you in, you can move on to the deepest techniques with care.

You are correct that cross-fiber friction (and multi-directional-fiber friction) techniques are more stimulating. Sometimes that equates to more uncomfortable. Think of xff/mdff as your 'drill down' techniques: you've located specific location of tissue dysfunction and are choosing to use this tool to create functionality.

aloha_student
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Re: How much should I learn in school?

Post by aloha_student » Fri Aug 28, 2015 6:49 pm

Breathe wrote:There are many reasons for muscle stripping, including, but not limited to: creating glide in the fascia between muscles, locating the tighter bands and focusing on encouraging relaxation, and not least - it feels good. You work in the direction of muscle fiber because we've arbitrarily decided to call this technique "muscle stripping." ;) It's one of the more common mid-level pressure techniques. Warm up the tissue with standard "swedish" techniques, prepare for deep work with variable levels of "stripping," then when the person and their body allows you in, you can move on to the deepest techniques with care.

You are correct that cross-fiber friction (and multi-directional-fiber friction) techniques are more stimulating. Sometimes that equates to more uncomfortable. Think of xff/mdff as your 'drill down' techniques: you've located specific location of tissue dysfunction and are choosing to use this tool to create functionality.
Thank you! I hadn't realized that certain strokes are more effective at certain pressures, because we're encouraged to be consistent with the same pressure throughout the massage, regardless of the stroke. Knowing that I can work through strokes of different pressure to get muscles ready has already helped a lot in being able to assess muscles while I do the warm-up strokes.

Along those lines, I have a question about friction. At school, we do use pressure, but we don't usually move the skin across the deeper tissues. I've been reading Mark Beck's book on Swedish massage, and he describes the intent of friction strokes not as the therapists hands moving across the skin, but as the therapists hands moving superficial layers against deeper layers. How do you use friction? I've been leaving it out, because we do it by placing our hands with the pinky fingers against the skin and rubbing our hands together really fast - which burns and I don't like the feeling, so I assume my clients wouldn't either. But this description in my book sounds useful for warming areas.

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Breathe
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Re: How much should I learn in school?

Post by Breathe » Fri Aug 28, 2015 7:32 pm

Cross-fiber and multidirectional fiber friction (xff/mdff) are completely different from the superficial friction you described. I almost never use the latter technique. The only time I ever do is as a distraction, for instance, when a superficial nerve ending gets "lit up."

As a distraction technique, I'm not fond of it, because I don't like it done to me, and I prefer to use jostling, shaking or vibration to distract or warm, rather than the edge of hand style friction.

XFF/MDFF are "sink down" techniques, where you sink in to the desired layer, then move that layer of muscle, scar or connective tissue, against the layer below.

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