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Massage Strokes Using Active and Passive Movement

We have previously written about static massage strokes where there is no movement of the body part being massaged, For this post we will be introducing some techniques which incorporate either passive or active movement of a joint using similar compression and stripping strokes. Whilst these strokes are effective within a remedial, sports or deep tissue massage, it must be mentioned that not every technique will be useful for each massage recipient. Typically these strokes will require more pressure and can lead to some discomfort, although therapists should only ever work within the pain tolerance of the client.

Massage with active and passive joint movement
For many of the following techniques, whether the movement is active or passive makes little difference to the actual physical action of the therapist. The difference is more that a passive movement will bring about mostly physiological changes to the soft tissue whereas an active movement can introduce some neurological impact as excessive muscle spindle activity is reduced when a muscle is contracted. Another difference may be that an active movement may cause the client pain so from a comfort level a passive stroke may be more appropriate.

Shortening Strokes
Shortening strokes can be effective in dealing with trigger points, myofascial tension and some joint restrictions. They are performed by applying some static compression to the part of the muscle that requires bodywork and then the tissues are shortened/contracted either by moving the joint actively or passively. Generally for the start of the stroke the muscle will be in an elongated and lengthened state.
The philosophy behind shortening strokes is that by deliberately reducing the tension in the muscle through shortening then it may decrease trigger point activity and neuromuscular dysfuncationality within the muscle. If there is less tension on the muscle fibres while compression is applied then it may lessen the amount of neurological activity.
Often the end position of the joint and muscle after a shortening stroke will be held for an extended period of time as a form of positional release.

Lengthening Strokes
Often the primary intention of a massage therapist is to lengthen muscles that have been hypertonic through overuse or through a constant state of contraction due to poor posture. Active or passage lengthening strokes are a great way to achieve this objective as the mobilise connective tissue, reduce tension in the muscle and encourage elongation and lengthening of the muscle.
There a number of different ways to perform these strokes. A popular approach is referred to as “pin and stretch”. Static compression is applied to a particular point using a massage tool that is strong enough and specific enough to be able to hold the muscle in place as the muscle extends either actively or passively. The sharper the massage tool then the more intense the sensation for the client.

As an example of a pin and stretch technique for pectoralis minor then have a look at the video below.

The second common use of lengthening strokes is to perform a stripping stroke along the length of the muscle as the muscle is lengthened via active or passive joint movement. The muscle is put into a shortened state and then slowly stretched as the therapist strips the muscle. This can be referred to as facilitated lengthening. Often for larger muscle groups this stroke is repeated a number of times in parallel so that the entire muscle is treated.
The overall effect of lengthening during a stripping stroke is to magnify the intensity and the effect on the soft tissue. The trick to performing it effectively is to work slowly. The slower you work then the deeper you can penetrate without causing undue discomfort to the recipient.

By Richard Lane

Posted in Massage, Massage Training and tagged as , ,

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