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Saturday, 25 August 2007 09:49

The Best of Both Worlds

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It is often thought that a massage therapist’s hands are one thing that a machine will never replace. Yet, advances in new state-of-the-art technology have now provided the opportunity to relieve the stress and strain from a therapist’s job, while still providing countless treatment options that benefit their clients.

Professional physiotherapy equipment has been in use in physical therapy, sports therapy, and medical offices since the 1950s and it is now becoming extremely popular in salons, day spas, resorts, and medical spas. Even though the human touch will never be substituted with a machine, more and more therapists are using professional massage equipment as a tool in their treatment protocols.

Massage therapists, physical therapists, aestheticians, nurses, and other healthcare providers make their careers out of helping others to maintain health and wellness, often to the detriment of their own. The average career in massage therapy lasts only five years. A long, healthy career in massage therapy or physical therapy depends upon the practitioner taking precautions to maintain his or her own wellness. Therapists must learn to stay in touch with their own bodies and build strength and endurance, as well as schedule in time for relaxation and stress reduction.
Manual massage therapies are often hard on the practitioner’s upper body, involving repetitive motions and heavy pressure. Treatment rooms are not always ergonomically set up for the individual therapist; the room may be too small or the table may be set up at the wrong height. Many times therapists at a busy establishment simply have too many appointments and are working when tired, not paying attention to body mechanics and posture. Practitioners must practice preventative measures such as always using good body positioning and never straining the back by leaning over a client. They can also use professional equipment to aid them in their various modalities.
Professional mechanical massage equipment allows therapists to effectively take the ‘muscle’ out of their massage routine, reducing the physical strain caused by repetitive motions, allowing users to work longer hours, see more clients, and extend their career longevity in their field. Mechanical massage units basically do everything that traditional massage can do, yet also allows users to work deeper than they might physically be able to with their hand and arm strength alone.
Massage benefits nearly every system of the body including the circulatory, immune, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive. These professional mechanical units provide unique vibration and percussion that can be effectively used in a variety of treatments, using the applicators provided. Depending upon individual application, a therapist would use long smooth strokes, circular motions, or focused stationary pressure to achieve the desired results. Professional equipment provides non-invasive therapy for skin, scalp, tissue, muscles, lymph nodes, and the circulatory system.
Aesthetic procedures like cellulite reduction and lymphatic drainage are services that mechanical units excel in providing. Manual Lymphatic Drainage involves a light, rhythmical massage that moves stagnant lymphatic fluid. Lymphatic fluid is a substance derived from body tissues that contains white blood cells. The lymphatic system is a separate system from arteries and veins and acts to remove bacteria and toxins from cells, as well as move damaged cells and excess fluids away from any affected areas, promoting healing. Lymphatic fluid is then cleaned and filtered during circulation through lymph nodes and returned to the venous bloodstream where mature lymphocytes are supplied to the blood. If a lymph passage is blocked or congested due to surgery, injury, or inflammation, fluids can build up in the connective tissue leading to edema.
Unlike the vascular system, the lymphatic system is a pumpless system and lymphatic vessels are very low-pressure conduits. Lymph transport is sporadic and much slower than that occurring in veins. Physical activity increases lymph flow from the milking action of active muscles. Massage stimulates the lymphatic system to quickly remove fluids and toxins away from cells to be processed and cleansed, promoting healthy lymph flow and faster healing from any blockages or congestion. Stimulation of lymphatic flow is one of the most beneficial aspects of massage. Manual lymphatic drainage follows a certain pattern through the body, and a practitioner would follow these patterns as he or she worked to re-establish good lymph circulation.
Cellulite treatment is a growing service staple in the salon, day spa, and medical spa arenas. Cellulite results from adipose tissue projecting into the dermis and pulling at the epidermis. Bands of vertical connective tissue are anchored from the dermis to deeper layers, causing bumps and dimples to appear on the surface of skin. Slowed blood and lymph flow through subcutaneous layers of tissue contribute to fat growth in the hypodermis. This condition, which mainly exists in women, has no known permanent solution. However, the appearance of cellulite can be reduced. Treatments include diet, exercise, and over-the-counter cellulite creams containing stimulating ingredients such as caffeine, seaweed, or retinols. Machine-assisted massage has become a common therapy as well.
Deep tissue massage and trigger point therapy are two additional modalities that benefit from the specific penetration that mechanical equipment offers. Trigger point therapy is a form of neuromuscular massage that targets an area in the muscle tissue that refers pain to other parts of the body. By applying pressure to these ‘points’ a release of toxins is achieved and blood flow to the area is increased, providing oxygen and healing nutrients to the affected area. This eases muscle tension, decreases stress on joints, improves muscle function, and allows the tissue to heal. Trigger point and deep tissue work are treatments that increasing numbers of male clientele are seeking. Many services for male clients are increasing in popularity and most medical spas offer a menu of treatment options just for men. Deep tissue and sports massage are particularly appropriate uses for mechanical units as soft tissue injuries can be addressed. Mobility within the tissue structures of ligaments, tendons, and muscles can be maintained by massage, and adherent scar tissue reduced.
In addition, these professional machine assisted systems are also commonly used to assist massage therapists and aestheticians in performing professional services for skin toning, scar tissue reduction, circulatory stimulation, trigger point therapy, exfoliation, and reflexology. Any salon, spa, or medical service that could be enhanced by extra strength, duration, or precision can benefit from these extraordinary new systems. Mechanical massage serves as a personal assistant in the treatment room, an invaluable asset to a professional aesthetician or massage therapist’s business and an enhancement to the human touch. With the muscle taken out of massage, therapists can maintain their own health and wellness as well as to lengthen their careers. This way, they get to pass on the benefits of their talents to the client and everyone continues to reap the rewards of the career they have put so much into.

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