Thursday, November 14, 2013

5 Therapies Complementary to Mindful Massage

"Feldenkrais" by waltercolor on Flickr. Creative Commons licensed
While no one can or should pursue every treatment modality out there, most people find that combining two or three complementary practices most efficiently supports their healing process. To that end, here are five therapies I find support the work I do in massage, and vice versa, and mention which health conditions or goals are best suited for each in my experience and opinion. (Items are listed in no particular order; I could not pick a top favorite out of any of these!)

1) Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education

(Related modalities include the Alexander Technique and Spacial Dynamics.) Feldenkrais Method could be called "neuromuscular reprogramming". It could also be called "movement integration", "coordination training", and "bloody effective". The goal of Feldenkrais, whether one-on-one sessions or group classes, is to bring awareness, ease, and function to previously limited or painful movements and activities. I recommend it for people with old injuries that are continuing to hinder their desired activities, but I also have found it useful for clients who, for reasons of trauma or dysphoria, have an incomplete "mental map" of their bodies and potential movement.

2) Chiropractic

For some acute and chronic injuries, and for many of the physical aches and pains of pregnancy and new parenthood, I highly recommend a good chiropractor. In my experience, most pregnant people and new parents (whether they gave birth or not) would benefit from care with a skilled, parenthood-focused practitioner. Chiropractic adjustments can help you, well, adjust to the quite different demands of life with a baby.

3) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

(Otherwise known as just "therapy" or "talk therapy", though it is important to note that non-CBT methods of talk therapy do exist.) While massage performs excellently at reducing anxiety and assisting in processing emotions, any significant psycho-emotional concerns should also be addressed under the care of a licensed counselor or therapist. Many times we "bring up" old history or emotions on the table, and CBT can help you understand and shift your thinking around those events or feelings.

3a) EMDR, or eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, may be especially effective at "clearing out" the feelings sometimes awakened in massage.

4) Dialectal Behavior Therapy

DBT, as opposed to CBT, is a specific protocol, grounded in both mindfulness and entirely mundane practical skills, that excels at treating "personality" disorders, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions that are not well-served by other forms of traditional treatments. I am unlikely to recommend DBT to any client, but I find mindfulness-based massage makes an excellent adjunctive therapy for people who are successfully using DBT.

5) Fat Yoga or Curvy Yoga

Yes, I'm a fan of yoga for people generally, but there's something especially empowering about yoga for those of us who are fat or plus sized. Not only is yoga a wonderful mindful-movement practice, engaging in a workout traditionally seen as only for the ultra-lithe can be a huge subversive self-esteem boost. If you're lucky enough to have access to Fat Yoga, Curvy Yoga, or similar fat-positive classes, I encourage you to check them out -- even if you're not feeling confident about reclaiming those words for yourself yet.

What are your favorite therapeutic modalities or activities, whether to complement or in place of massage?


  1. Chiro and massage to me go together like PB and J! Your posts have been so creatively relevant...bravo!

    1. Chiro is definitely fabulous for some conditions. And hah, thanks! I'm trying, and learning a lot about what works and what doesn't for blogging about massage. Which is the point of this exercise, so yay!


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