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What is manual therapy?  And how is it different than massage, or bodywork?

 The term “Manual Therapy”  is becoming the standard terminology used to describe any therapy provided with a practitioners’ hands.  The techniques typically encompass manipulation, mobilization, massage, and touch.  The term “manual therapy” is used to explain that the methodology has been studied and applied with the intent of producing specific, measurable therapeutic benefit.  It is used with the hope that we will soon have insurance coverage available for our work, that “manual therapy” will be utilized as an indispensable adjunct to orthopedics specifically, and ultimately psychology and general health care as well.   It is used with the vision of post-graduate trained therapists, with its academic rigor and clinical trials, and a multidisciplinary validation of efficacy.


Historically, indigenous healers have used hands-on modalities from the inception of human compassion - from our primal experience of pain, and the compelling need to soothe.  There are a vast array of beliefs, theories, and methodologies still in use today.  They form the backdrop from which modern modalities evolved.


The term ‘massage’ comes from the re-emergence in northern Europe, of the use of manual therapies for healthful benefit.  Massage is known for the techniques of effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement (stroking, kneading, and rhythmic percussion).  It is generally used in the spa environment, and is beneficial for relaxation and stress reduction (from which can stem great health benefits). 


‘Bodywork’ is a term that came into favor when manual therapy pioneers in the last 100 years wanted to differentiate themselves from massage therapists in their dedication to structural change - in their understanding that they could effect very tangible ‘physical’ benefit.  They wanted to address injury and dysfunction and extend that potential in the field.  They also saw the undeniable interconnectedness of the mind - our emotions, our consciousness, and developed modalities addressing these relations as well.


Commonly, I consider myself a bodyworker, as this is the culture I developed my work within.  I stand on the shoulders of Mabel Todd, Ilse Middendorf, Marion Rosen, Ida Rolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, Tom Hendrickson, Gerda Alexander, Thomas Hanna, Andrew Taylor Still, Leon Chaitow, and many of my colleagues.  I also use the term manual therapist as I am part of the effort to establish our field into the standard delivery of health care.

Are treatments painful to receive?

 No, treatments don’t hurt, nor do they need to hurt to be effective.


I will be touching, or working deeply in places that are painful or sore, but I won’t be causing more pain.  I am careful to minimize or avoid causing pain, because an increase in pain during a treatment initiates a ‘pain cycle’ that leads to further inflammation and fibrosis – just what I am trying to alleviate.  While I am working in the involved areas you may feel a type of ‘pain’.  I put it in quotes because it’s a kind of ‘healing pain’.  People say “yes, it sort of hurts, but it actually feels good”. 


My intention is that you can completely relax into the work I am doing.  It is not beneficial if you have to to tense, brace yourself, or tolerate a treatment.  The experience of my work is relieving and alleviating.

How does the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan influence your work?

Adopting the principles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and applying them to my bodywork practice has allowed me to stay relaxed and focused while drawing energy from my entire body rather than relying on the effort from my arms and hands. T’ai Chi, and especially the practice of push-hands, has also taught me how to ‘push’ or advance through resistance while at the same time be receptive and sense for ‘openings’. Feeling for resistance can inform me as to the nature and cause of a problem, and following pathways of ‘openings’ help me reach deeper into the body, closer to the bone, closer to a correspondence between your experience and my touch. T’ai Chi Ch’uan has given me a capacity to combine intention and receptivity which formulates an essential foundation to my work.

What is the Hendrickson Method of Orthopedic Massage and Manual Therapy?


 The Hendrickson Method is an advanced, clinically proven form of massage and manual therapy that is very comfortable to receive and extremely effective at alleviating pain in the muscles and joints of the body.  Hendrickson Method was developed by Tom Hendrickson, DC, who over his thirty years of clinical practice integrated the methodologies of his mentor Lauren Berry with his own innovations.  Dr. Tom Hendrickson is a leader in the field of manual therapy and is known for his unification of energetic healing traditions with scientific, evidence based treatments.  He also originated the massage stroke called ‘wave mobilization’.  This gentle stroke emulates ocean waves and its healing effects penetrate deep within the body.  This unique stroke induces relaxation into the body, releases tension in the muscles and lubricates the joints.  In addition to wave mobilization, the Hendrickson Method incorporates the most effective manual techniques of physical therapy and osteopathy, including joint mobilization and neuromuscular re-education.


I studied with the founder, Tom Hendrickson, for 5 years.  I worked in his clinic, I am a teacher of his work, and I helped him edit the first edition of his text Massage for Orthopedic Conditions, published by Lippincott Williams and Wilkins in 2003.

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