Physiologically based system of medical and sports massage developed in the former Soviet Union. European in style, using rubbing, kneading, and gliding strokes. Comfortable to the client and effective for a wide variety of purposes.
On Monday, May 6, Kathryn Merrow interviewed me for 30 minutes for Massage Talk Radio. We had a lot of fun. She asked about how I got into massage, about my training and experience, and how I've evolved to incorporate the various things I've learned over the years into my practice. We talked about how my understanding of trigger points has changed and I was particularly happy to speak about what I've learned about pain science in recent years. I appreciated the opportunity to tell my fellow massage therapists that even though learning something new that contradicts what we've believed to be true can be uncomfortable at first, it does not have to be threatening and, in fact, when we embrace understanding how the body actually works, it's exciting and liberating.
We massage therapists are taught a lot about muscles. We also study bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, fascia. We learn a little about physiology, about other systems of the body, and some lip service is paid to the role of the nervous system in the relaxation response and to how the brain mediates the changes brought about by massage. But mostly we pay attention to muscles. We talk about which muscles are tight, find “knots” in them, and “release” them by pushing into them and/or stretching them with our hands, fingers, forearms, and elbows.
If I could teach only one stroke to other massage therapists, it would be Russian circular heel of the hand friction.
Friction is seldom used in Swedish massage but used quite a bit in Russian massage. It's a great stroke and I consider it my "workhorse." I incorporate it liberally during full-body relaxation massage because it's relaxing and feels very good. It's great for muscles that are tight and sore. It's particularly useful with athletes. It's my favorite stroke.
Done properly, it's very comfortable for the client and very easy on the therapist. Remember not to do it too fast. It should be done at a moderate to slow pace. Too fast will take the sensation of depth out of it. Oil should be minimum, just enough to let you move along easily but not so much that you are sliding over the skin. There should still be a little friction.
This is the second in a series of brief videos introducing the principles and practice of Russian Medical and Sports Massage.
Our first video gave a brief Introduction to the Principles of Russian Massage. The second video, presented here, gives a brief demonstration of flat continuous effleurage on the back.
Continuous flat effleurage is very calming to the central nervous system and a good beginning and ending stroke. In Russian Massage, we are very specific about how the strokes are done. How the hand is held, how the fingers are placed, all enhance the stroke and make a small but significant difference. The continuous movement in one direction produces a unique feeling that is a little different from common Swedish effleurage. Since the hands are working alternately, each hand has a moment of rest between strokes. These brief periods of rest make the stroke less fatiguing for the therapist than in traditional Swedish massage, where both hands are always working at the same time.
Try it and let us know what you think.
I'm excited to announce the first of a series of brief videos that will introduce the principles and practice of Russian massage.
Russian Massage is a medical and sports massage developed in the former Soviet Union and used in hospitals and clinics there. Based on research, Russian Massage works with the physiological processes of the body to promote desired change and recognizes the role of the central nervous system in bringing about that change.
This first video gives a brief introduction to the history and principles of Russian Massage and discusses how the practice of Russian Massage agrees with current understanding of neuroscience.
Special thanks to Will Stewart of 3-D Optimal Performance for making these videos possible.
I hope you like it. Let me know what you think!
Neuroscience, Russian Massage, and Remembering Zhenya Kurashova Wine: An Interview With Will Stewart
When Will Stewart, owner of 3-D Optimal Performance, asked to interview me, I was surprised and honored. Will recently began a series of webradio interviews with many of the "heavy hitters" in the field of manual and movement therapies and neuroscience. These are individuals who are bringing an understanding of what neuroscience knows about the brain and applying it to manual and movement therapies. Will has conducted some fascinating interviews with physical therapists, manual therapists, massage therapists, athletic trainers, occupational therapists, and even his piano instructor, all with an interest in understanding how the role of the brain and the central nervous systerm plays a part in their approach to their work.
A colleague on a private forum asked the following questions in response to some thoughts I posted yesterday. In particular, he wondered about the description of an experience I had with a client. His question:
Having effect on the nervous system by stretching skin will relieve pain? . . . [Is] Dianna [sic] relieving trigger points in this fashion? Seriously? Sixteen years ago, I never knew what was causing my pain. Doctors didn't know either. And then I ran into a PT who did know and mentored me. Trigger Point work, as I have benefitted, is painful. Paul Ingraham and Amber Davies agree, they hurt like hell when compressed. That "painful work" is the only thing that has ever given me tempory relief. I'm just not seeing where skin work is going to effect a mechanical release of myofascial contraction knots.....
The past year has seen a mental growth spurt for this therapist. After years of feeling isolated as an evidence-based massage therapist, I found an online community of MTs and related professionals with similar interests.
“Monkeys, and other animals, groom each other often with a marked reduction in stress. Touch is good, and one doesn’t need to wrap it up in pseudoscientific nonsense for it to be beneficial.” - Mark Crislip discussing reflexology on ScienceBased Medicine blog
These are the opening words to a paper on the interactor/operator model by Canadian physiotherapist Diane Jacobs, who describes herself as a "human primate social groomer and neuroelastician." When I first read this paper, I wasn't always completely clear about what Diane had to say, but what I understood resonated with me and articulated a dilemma I'd struggled with for a long time.