Frequently Asked Questions
What is massage therapy?
Massage Therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body including muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. Moving joints through range of motion movements, both actively and passively, is also considered to be within the realm of massage therapy.
The massage therapy technique that we practice most is called ischemic pressure. This technique involves palpating for and applying gentle pressure to trigger points and other hypertonic (too tight) soft tissues in order to return those tissues to healthier tone.
Not only is this done to help decrease the soft tissue discomfort in the tissues themselves, but it is also can be an effective way to normalize alignment of the skeleton.
One of the biggest reasons the therapy we practice is different from more typical massage therapy is the use of a proprietary system of corrective exercise called the Alignment First Protocol ©, to promote lasting change in muscle tone improvements and bony alignment.
Can massage therapy help me?
Massage therapy can be an effective way to solve problems related to muscle imbalances, dysfunctional movement patterns and painful postures. It can be beneficial for people of all ages. While there are some conditions for which massage therapy isn’t appropriate its part of our job to be able to recognize such cases and help direct you to more appropriate care.
The conditions we most commonly work with are:
- Back pain
- Neck pain and headache
- Hip pain and sciatica
- Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis
- Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow
- Knee pain and patellar tendonitis
- Post-surgical (including joint replacement) rehabilitation
- Postural re-education
Is massage therapy always appropriate?
No, there are certain medical conditions that make massage therapy an inappropriate choice of care. That’s one reason why all patients fill out a health history form before beginning their first therapy session. An intake interview is also used to gather additional information and establish whether or not you are a good candidate for the kind of therapy we provide.
Does massage therapy hurt?
As with the vast majority of the other elements of each individual case, it depends.
In many cases the root cause of the pain does not exist where the pain is felt, and in such cases the treatment itself may not be uncomfortable at all. More often than not the treatment involves some minor discomfort but it is not harmful. If we do it right the discomfort in question diminishes during the session, as does the painful problem you are seeking help for.
In cases where the painful site itself needs to be manipulated, your ongoing feedback regarding discomfort helps us to keep the pressure we are using the most appropriate pressure possible. Of course the patient is able to stop the treatment at any time.
Do I have to remove all my clothing for massage therapy treatment?
No. For the kind of work that you and us would do together you need to wear close-fitting clothes that you can exercise in. Close-fitting clothes help us to see your body positioning. Clothes that you can exercise in are necessary because you are not a passive participant in this therapeutic process.
During the typical session it is not unusual for the patient to have to get up and down off the treatment table multiple times. That would be awkward and incredibly time-consuming if you were naked. We also need you to be able to perform exercises, for assessment purposes and as corrective intervention. “Test, correct and retest” is standard operating procedure in our office.
It is critically important that you are comfortable with this approach. If you are uncomfortable with any aspect of the plan or execution of your care we need you to let us know immediately so that adjustments can be made.
What can I expect during the first session?
Prior to your first session visit you will complete a confidential health history. Medical conditions, surgeries, medications and details surrounding your primary complaint are all important to know.
We will combine the other information we have gotten from you with information compiled from a series of postural and dynamic assessments.
Through this session we will be able to develop a logical treatment plan that accounts for your unique needs and goals. The basic trajectory of this plan will allow you to proceed with some understanding of what you should reasonably expect in order for you to return, as much as possible, to your normal activities.
You will be given a personally prescribed corrective exercise program to practice at home, with a demonstration video of each exercise for reference.
After my massage therapy session is there anything specific I should or shouldn’t do?
Plan for some quiet time right after your treatment if at all possible. Although a hot bath might be a great idea, most people jump back in their vehicle and head back to work or rush home to get dinner ready. A better option would be to schedule time for at least a relaxing walk around the block or take some time getting to know your new exercises in a nearby park. These activities are recommended to help you calm your neuromuscular system and enhance the benefits of the massage. They will likely help minimize any post-treatment stiffness. Drinking plenty of water will also help to keep your tissues hydrated, healthy and mobile. The most important “do” is to persistently practice your exercise prescription.
It’s probably not a great idea to leave your massage therapy session and engage in any high demand activity, whether it is demanding mentally or physically. Most people leave the treatment room feeling relaxed, but for some people “relaxed” means “groggy” and for others it means “tired”. The experience is unique to everyone, but you are unlikely to be ready for any sort of peak performance. As much as it is possible take the rest of that day to regain your feet and get back up to speed at work and play the following day.
How often should I have massage therapy?
Lots of people like to go “get a massage”. Whether you are using massage therapy to manage stress, rehabilitate an injury or eliminate a chronic pain, the benefits of massage therapy will not be realized to their fullest potential if you treat it as an event. For maximum benefit you need to treat it as a process.
Although you may be able to obtain some relief from one treatment session, experience has proven that for most patients to experience lasting improvements in comfort and function they need to pursue a series of treatments and practice their prescribed corrective exercises as well.
The Alignment First Protocol © is the name of our corrective exercise system, but the name also refers to the guidelines for delivering this system of care for maximum patient benefit.
The first session is where we establish whether or not you are a good candidate for this kind of care, and if so we design your initial corrective exercise routine.
The second session occurs one week later when we reassess and fine tune your exercise prescription based upon the changes your body has made during the first week.
The third and fourth sessions also occur at weekly intervals as we continue to coax your body toward the desired changes in alignment, mobility and discomfort that are critical initially.
After four weekly sessions it is typical for the acutely painful crisis to be behind us. At this point we move forward with another four sessions, occurring every two weeks. Although some people are inclined to conclude their treatment plan at this point because they feel better, lasting improvements in posture, mobility and movement quality take time to develop and sustain.
Depending on many factors a fracture takes 6-12 weeks to heal. It has been our experience that significant, lasting alterations to the neuromuscular system takes a similar amount of time. Guided by a complex intelligence that we do not yet fully understand, the body repairs itself — and over a few months is made whole again. The process is spontaneous, natural, and seeks no direction from us, but what we do during this time is of unrecognized importance. The stage we set for healing greatly influences the speed, comfort and completeness of the process.
Once the immediate crisis is past patients very commonly enter a maintenance mode of care and return for reassessment and maintenance visits on a monthly, quarterly or semiannual basis.
If you are waiting to be incapacitated by pain before you come back in for help there is probably a better way to manage your biomechanical and neuromuscular health! We can certainly work together to establish a program which fits your needs and lifestyle.
Is massage therapy covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)?
No. Massage therapy treatments are not covered under Alberta Health Care Insurance, regardless of whether or not the treatments are prescribed by a physician.
However, most extended health insurance plans do cover massage therapy treatments when provided by a Registered Massage Therapist and most do not require a physician’s order to do so, although some do have that requirement.
Most plans require that the covered individual pay for the treatment and submit the expense for reimbursement. Most plans also have a maximum dollar amount available for reimbursement. Contact your employer for more information.
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