As a teacher of massage, I have frequently taught about a concept I call creating space for the health and healing of another person.
Many years ago, a wise massage therapist taught me about this concept, what it means to those who care for another person’s health, and how healing works for both your client and you.
First off, she gave me the best definition of what a “healer” is. A healer is merely someone who creates the space within another for them to heal themselves. She explained to me that ultimately my job was to help find misused energy and redirect it for vital use.
This lesson came to me at a time in my career where I was literally a pushy massage therapist. I was young and ambitious, and I thought everyone needed deep work for just about any ailment in the body. I spent a great deal of time beating up tissues.
After a while, I began to realize that sometimes I was helping people at the massage table and sometimes I was hurting people. My intentions were good and my clients received change from the massage treatments given. However, the outcomes were both positive and negative — and to be the healer I wished to be, I know I needed to understand how to make it a positive experience for as many of my clients as possible.
Creating a Space for Healing
I learned how to interpret what all of that healing space jargon meant when I realized my job was to simply create a surplus of energy.
When you create a surplus of energy in the body, you have generated a situation where the body now has the ability to heal itself. That was the difference between a positive and negative experience for the client. If the client felt depleted when they got off the table, then whatever I did was too much. If the client felt uplifted and energetic, then whatever I did created that surplus.
Creating surplus energy for the body can happen very naturally with massage. With repeated surplus experiences, the natural principles of health recovery kick in. Clients start to have the energy to correct issues within their mind and body. This is the path of natural healing and is the foundation of creating the space to heal.
How then do you go about creating a surplus of energy for healing?
The Science of the Healing
In order for me to recreate this positive energy experience with my clients, I needed to employ a measurement system to work with to know I was even headed in the right direction.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that if the person’s pain during the session went down and stayed down, then when they got up from the massage table they were typically in an energy surplus. Since pain and inflammation require tremendous energy, when pain is manually decreased, a larger and longer lasting energy surplus becomes available to the body.
I decided the best thing to measure success was to use a pain scale for “healing” and started using a 10-point pain scale. After playing around with pain scale numbers, treatments and outcomes, I realized that a 4-point decrease in pain created enough energy surplus for much positive change.
What is occurring is you are simply allowing an exchange of energy to transfer from one process in the body to another area where the energy is needed for healing. Watching the change happen and the healing that occurred from that change was profound.
Progress in Healing
I knew this exchange was happening correctly if my client had a continual 4-point reduction in pain. It was even better if there was a gradual drop in the top number on the pain scale from one treatment session to the next. For example:
- If someone came in for an appointment at a pain level of 8 and left at a pain level of 4, positive energy exchange occurred.
- If they come back in a week at a pain level of 6 and left at a pain level of 2, that’s the power of energy surplus and the healing space at work.
- If they come back in another week and they were at a 5, and leave the session at a 1, this person has much new-found and redirected energy and healing could potentially occur at a greater rate.
- Conversely, if they come back in two weeks and they are back to a pain level of 8, then the effects of positive change occurred and then changed back to fighting pain.
Using the pain scale allows you to show your client how to use massage to create more positive outcomes and healing space.
Massage and Healing
Massage as a healing therapy can be best observed when pain can be kept at a level of 5 or below. That number represents the fine line between being able to manage pain or have pain manage you. The body is required to start aggressively fighting pain after a 5, shifting from energy used for healing to energy used to fight pain.
With this idea in mind, our massage applications should merely help steer the body to find its own state of better balance. We don’t have to control it; we assist the balance.
This is the shift I made in thinking from plowing away on specific muscles to creating smaller changes to many places during a session, allowing those changes to accumulate into a more gentle and positive energy exchange. I don’t always think you need a different technique, sometimes I think you only need a different frequency of the same technique to achieve positive results.
My hope is for you to realize you have the ability in your hands to force a change or create a change. Understanding how each of those two changes affect the body provides the knowledge of how to create that healing space and energy exchange for your clients.
Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 25 years. She is a frequent contributor to MASSAGE Magazine, and the owner and developer of Pain Patterns and Solutions Seminars CE courses. She is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE provider, and has authored several books, including Massage Your Market: How to Define Your Client’s Expectations. Read more of her articles, including “Are You Making This Huge Mistake with Your Product Sales?” at massagemag.com.