In 1990, after almost a year of teaching anatomy and physiology at the Sarasota School of Massage Therapy (SSMT) in Florida, my late wife and I purchased the school, and I found myself immersed in the world of massage and bodywork education—traditions different from that of a doctor of chiropractic. I received my chiropractic degree and license in New York more than five years earlier, and began teaching at SSMT while awaiting my Florida license.
The question as to massage and its benefits to health and wellness is, to many, no longer equivocal. Chiropractors, osteopaths, orthopedic physicians and even psychotherapists have incorporated massage into their offices and hospitals. The increasing research in the massage field attests to its variety of implications, and with the addition of Oriental theory and practice, it is clear our views on the physical and energetic aspects of our body are changing around the world. Its outcome will most certainly be, in part, some new synthesis of the entire spectrum—something for future generations to benefit.
I was given my first traditional Thai massage from a fellow instructor and friend about 12 years ago, and was immediately enchanted. I immediately could see the possibilities it held for my own practice, as I was drawn to the work of Major DeJarnette, George Goodheart and the old-school diversified techniques. The protocols of DeJarnette’s Sacro-Occipital Technique were, and still are, the foundation of my own office protocols. I have been a yoga practitioner for over 40 years, and the cranial respiratory movements combined with the concept of musculoskeletal balance resonated with my experience as a yoga student and teacher. De Jarnette’s block work is in part passive, and he emphasized the need for extremity work to precede the blocking procedures, so that the body’s core might be relieved of appendicular tensions.
Traditional massage from Thailand evolved from that confluence of traditions, which manifested in Sri Gautama the Buddha. His physicians are said to have brought the method to Thailand. Its language is akin to Hindu and Ayurvedic medicine rather than Chinese. As a method, it includes stretches, pressure-point stimulation, energy current pumping and breathing. It is practiced on a comfortable floor mat. Its intent is the passive stimulating/relaxing (balancing) of the somatic physical and subtle energies, having an effect similar to that which a session of active yoga practice would provide. In fact, Thai massage is often described as Thai Yoga massage or, more simply, passive yoga.
I took Michelle Manna’s Thai massage certification course at SSMT, and integrated it into my practice. I was thrilled with the diversity of movements provided in the extremities and the overall relaxed state the patient achieved before the adjustment, all of which amplified the adjustment and lengthened its effect.
The benefits to any receiver of massage—Thai Massage, in particular—is obvious to physicians trained in the various modalities of manual medicine. Many chiropractors provide massage therapy as part of their repertoire, usually employing the skills of a licensed massage therapist. For myself, a chiropractor, to incorporate both has been rewarding in the extreme.
The amplifying effects of Thai massage on the adjustment have been noted, but in addition to its effect on the patient, it is also beneficial to the physician. Thai massage helps a physician with:
a) Complete ROM analysis. The movements of Thai Massage activate each joint into a full, passive range-of-motion and orthopedic analysis.
b) Flexibility differentiation. The imbalances in the extremities, as well as the paraspinal muscle tensions are easily and specifically differentiated.
c) Unpredicted pain elicitation. As is often the case, symptomatic pain in one area of the body is paired with remote imbalances; a patient can come in with subjective neck pain and realize upon orthopedic testing of the lower extremity that pain is likewise elicited in the low back—often a surprise to the patient.
d) Relaxation of joints and periphery in general. As already mentioned, DeJarnette insisted on this before spinal manipulation.
e) “Issues” in the tissues. Each region of the patient’s body has its own history, and Thai massage stretches often remind the patient or bring out new insights as to his/her somatic history—insights not recalled during the initial interview.
g) Finally, and most important for me, it is good for the practitioner. Thai massage requires the therapist to kneel, squat, stand and lunge. It adds more variety to our body mechanics than the usual habits of chiropractic practice: standing and bending at the waist. One strengthens oneself while one treats another. The energy exchange is mutually relaxing and centering.
We can be thankful for the influence of Oriental healing traditions on our culture. The Oriental theory and practice introduced us ultimately to the concept of chi and prana, primal energy buds of consciousness, weaving in and around to from everything.
Michael Rosen-Pyros, D.C., is a pathology instructor at Sarasota School of Massage Therapy. For more information, visit www.sarasotaschoolofmassagetherapy.edu.