The connective tissues of the body have been demonstrated to be viscoelastic, changing shape slowly and returning to their original shape over time. This means that the beneficial effects in tissue length that result from massage therapy slowly revert to normal over time. For patients to achieve lasting change in mobility and tissue length, massage therapy should be reinforced with continued stretching and range-of-motion exercises.
To help with this process, registered massage therapists sometimes assign patients with therapeutic exercises that they can perform in their own homes to complement their treatment. These exercises are selected after careful assessment of a patient’s aerobic capacity and overall fitness level, and can help to speed up recovery and reduce the risk of further injury.
Therapeutic exercises are taught to students at massage therapy colleges like OVCMT with an emphasis on core stabilization, stretching, strengthening, endurance, and coordination.
The human body has 29 core muscles located in the back, abdomen, and pelvis, which provide a solid foundation to help us maintain balance and posture during movement. Typical exercises that strengthen core stability include isometric movements like hip bridges and planks.
During massage therapy training, students learn to use core stability exercises to treat a variety of conditions, such as chronic lower back pain and postural problems. Athletes appreciate these exercises for extending mobility and enhancing performance. Exercises promoting core stabilization improve support for the spine, relieving discomfort while reducing a patient’s risk of disc herniation and vertebrae degeneration.
RMTs use therapies like joint mobilization and muscle energy technique to restore a full range of motion to parts of the body following an injury. To supplement these treatments, a therapist will sometimes recommend complementary exercises intended to increase flexibility. These are usually simple, non-strenuous movements where a patient stretches and elongates tightened muscles, gradually increasing the range of motion as treatment progresses.
Students in therapeutic massage certification courses also learn the value and skill of strength exercises, which can be included in patients' programs to help strengthen targeted muscles. These exercises might involve holding a band or small weight, or pushing against a stationary force, and can be used for patients recovering from almost any injury, postural problems, or to improve athletic performance.
Aerobic exercises are used in massage therapy as another method of strengthening muscles, and also a patient’s overall endurance levels. Aerobic exercises work out large muscle groups for a long duration, rather than targeting specific muscles, and have the added benefits of improving the airflow through the lungs, reducing blood pressure and lowering the heart rate.
When RMTs believe it will help treatment, they may suggest lower-impact aerobic exercises for their patients, such as swimming or a short walk. Low impact exercises can be particularly beneficial for patients with arthritis, joint problems or other mobility issues.
Patients who suffer serious injuries often need to relearn some basic coordination skills as they recover, as their neuromuscular patterns have been disrupted. Therapists will often incorporate a number of exercises into treatments for these patients, which range from simple balancing exercises to practicing complex movements, to help retrain the affected muscle area.
Therapeutic massage program students learn how to implement therapeutic exercises into treatment programs only after thorough assessment, and monitor progress closely throughout treatment. Massage therapy programs also emphasize communication skills, as effectively explaining exercise procedures to the patient is crucial to their safety and wellbeing.
Are you interested in finding out more about therapeutic exercises? Visit OVCMT for more details.