BA, LMT, KMI Practitioner
About The Work
The Benefits of Massage Therapy
By Donielle Saxton, BA, CMT, KMI Practitioner
The power of touch has very subtle and profound effects on the body. Sharing a hug with a friend lets you know this. The simple act of touch affects all the body systems. By touching the skin, the nervous system is stimulated. The effect on the body depends on the type of strokes being used. For example; a long “effleurage” stroke calms and relaxes, while the percussion of “tapotement” awakens. This applies to the depth of the stroke like: a deep stroke is intended to release the muscle tension but is more awakening than light strokes, which are meant to relax. The nervous system goes deeper than just the skin, it is intertwined throughout the body and through the Fascia (see later in article about Fascia) tissue. This way it is innervating the muscles, bones and connective tissue. This innervation allows you to ‘feel’ the burn of the muscle and also why breaking a bone is painful. Touch can distract the pain impulse from making it’s way to the brain thus decreasing the pain you experience.
As you touch the skin you can't help but affect everything underneath. I continue on our journey with the circulatory system. As the nerves “relax” so do the veins and arteries, which increases circulation. An increase in circulation helps keep the blood moving and the heart pumping. Also near the skin surface is the lymph system. Unlike the heart, there is no pumping organ for the lymph. Lymph is moved by physical activity (esp. jumping up and down like on a trampoline) and also moves some with the vibration of the heartbeat and muscle movement. The only other way to move lymph is through manual touch. Lymph movement is one of the main ways the body rids itself of toxins. The more you keep it moving and open, the more toxins you release.
If the body doesn't have to do all sorts of extra work it can spend more time on important functions like immunity. Being in a relaxed state (but not asleep) helps keep your immunity high, this means you are less likely to get ill. If you do “catch” something you will probably get over it easier. (Sounds like a good thing to me!)☺
But the main thing a Massage Therapist is trying to do is help the muscles ‘feel’ better! Good Massage Therapists are intimately familiar with all the muscles and bones in the body (not as easy as it sounds). Massage is one of the only professions that looks at the muscles first and how they affect everything else in the body.
Essentially muscles provide support and mobility. Without the muscles the bones wouldn't stay together, but without the bones the muscles wouldn't be able to function. Another important piece of the structure is the Fascia (click to find out more). Fascia is connective tissue (meaning it connects everything [from bones & muscles to organs and cells] together). Now if you were to take a light and have it show just the connective tissue (including Fascia) you would be able to identify the person‘s build, size, gender, etc. (pretty much the whole person) because the connective tissue is so comprehensive. Fascia is also the area that Anatomists are looking at. They are finding out some fascinating (tee hee) information. Since we use our muscles/fascia all the time (even the heart is a muscle) without putting too much thought into it, they sometimes like to give us wake up calls. “Hello, I am still here, did you forget about me?” Through the use of varying strokes and pressures in Massage we are able to reach even the smallest muscle and answer it.
So why do muscles get stiff? On the chemical level a muscle contracts by sending calcium ions into the muscle fibers. The calcium ion is normally drawn out when the contraction is no longer needed. But sometimes some of it gets “stuck” in there. This can cause “knots and crunchies.” The massage therapist’s job is to get in there and release the trapped calcium. Sometimes this release is not immediate. Right after a massage you may feel like you still have kinks to work out, but after a couple hours or days it goes away. That is the way the muscles react. A similar phenomenon takes place when you work out or lift weights, some attributes change fast while others take time to change. By getting massage after working out, and on a regular basis you can keep this from building up and keep your muscles in better shape, have more flexibility and keep the stress at bay.
“I know of no part of the body
that equals the fascia as a hunting ground.
All nerves go to and terminate
in that great system, the fascia.
By its action we live
and by its failure we die.
The soul of man,
with all the streams of pure living water,
seems to dwell
in the fascia of his body.”
-- A.T. Still, the founder of Osteopathy
What is KMI Structural Integration?
KMI Structural Integration is a whole body technique. By systematically melting and moving the fascia (a connective tissue that covers the whole body- muscle, bone, tendons, ligaments, organs, cells, etc) out of 'bound' areas (from superficial to deep), the body is able to reposition and function better. Based on Tom Myers' Anatomy Trains, each session is unique and working toward a specific goal of freeing up your body so that it can work with more ease and use less energy keeping yourself 'upright'.
Wouldn't you like to move in and out of different activities and daily life with ease, grace and with dynamic balance? If you answered Yes, then the 12 - session KMI series is for you! Plan on 90 min/ session and done weekly.
You may have heard of Rolfing. Rolfing is a brand name for Structural Integration (SI); it was nicknamed Rolfing after its founder Dr. Ida P Rolf. Dr Rolf said, "you can't talk about just a little of Rolfing. You have to tell it all. People don't know, they have never seriously thought about that level in which the essence is relationship, where the noumena go looking for the phenomena." The practitioner's job is to bring forgotten, or more functional, shape back to a person's body. This involves work from the recipient as well (they have to use their shape). SI works with the idea that structure is function and function is structure, like two sides of the same coin. If we can integrate and improve the structure, then we can integrate and improve the functioning as well.
The fascia of the body is put together in one extensive, continuous sheet. If one section is not functioning properly, it distributes the load to the rest of the system. What this means is that the problem is not localized to one area, and that the area of discomfort or pain might not even be where the root of the problem exists. Knowing this, the practitioner works the whole body so that they not only remove the pain momentarily, but also so that they can find the root of the problem and all its manifestations. Dr. Rolf was not merely looking to cure symptoms, she was looking to change the whole being. The effects of the sessions tend to be profound yet subtle to the recipient. The changes can also reflect out in the recipient's life, causing them to want to change other aspects of their life. Structural integration gives us the opportunity to change some habits and explore the full benefit of having alignment and balance in gravity. Dr. Rolf called this "the gospel of Rolfing; when the body is working properly, the force of gravity can flow through it. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself."
-taken from an article written by Donielle Saxton and Todd Nyholm that was originally featured in the Jan 2003 CCMA Martial Arts newsletter. It is reprinted with permission from Dr. Tim Sheehan, Chief Instructor.-
Quotes by Ida Rolf taken from Rolfing and Physical Reality by Ida Rolf. Healing Arts Press 1978, 1990
What makes KMI different?
KMI is a form of Structural Integration (SI). The other brands of SI - Rolfing®, GSI, Hellerwork, Soma, Core, etc. - are all good schools with talented practitioners - so this section is not meant as a put down to anyone or any school. But each school / brand has a distinctive 'flavor', so the purpose of the next few paragraphs is to give a sense of the distinctive elements of KMI.
KMI is system-oriented, not symptom oriented
KMI work is applied gently and sensitively, with full client participation
The KMI series unfolds around a logical and coherent map of the myofasciae - the Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians
KMI practitioners welcome and value other inputs
KMI seeks client autonomy
1) Although many people come to KMI and Structural Integration because of some kind of pain or restriction, the intent of this work - especially when undertaken as a series of sessions, is to get to the condition behind the immediate problem.
Many shoulder injuries, for instance, are caused by the lack of support from the rib cage. What's the point of fixing the immediate problem if you don't at the same time moderate the cause? The KMI series is designed to progressively build support, sturdiness, and balance throughout the structural system, so that there is a whole new 'frame' underlying your posture and movement, which can keep old injuries from coming back and help to prevent new ones from happening.
Ida Rolf used to joke: "If your symptoms get better, that's your tough luck". A KMI practitioner may or may not address right away the area where you are having pain or restrictions - the roots often lie at some distance from the presenting problem. It may take several sessions or most of the series to get to the specifics of the problem, since we have to build up the supporting structure first.
In this way, KMI more resembles classical acupuncture or homeopathy or osteopathy - where the symptoms were secondary and building the 'constitution' is primary.
2) KMI work is not imposed on the client. The work should be on this side of the pain threshold, and the client and practitioner work out where the pressure and intensity level should be for maximum benefit. No good will come of 'grinning and bearing it' through an entire series. Occasionally, it is beneficial to 'expose' pain stored in the body, but 'imposing pain is not a part of KMI work.
Secondly, the client moves during the application of the manual therapy. If you are lying passively on the table for most of the session, you are not getting the best work you can get. KMI follows Ida Rolf's pithy dictum: "Put it where it belongs and call for movement." Your movement produces several benefits: it lessens the sensation by spreading it out, it engages your proprioception (inner sensing) that helps integrate the work, and it also helps the practitioner stay on the right layer of fascia during the release.
Thirdly, your KMI practitioner wants to hear about how the process is affecting you - physically, emotionally, in your exercise or other performance activities. Letting your practitioner know what's up is very helpful in getting the best work for you.
3) The KMI session series is built around a logical, coherent approach to the myofascial system. The Anatomy Trains Myofascial Meridians provide a way to define the territory of each session, allowing the practitioner to be both confident that they are getting the proper territory, but also creative within each session to ensure that each individual client is getting the exact work that his or her unique pattern requires. There's more information than you would ever want to know about the Anatomy Trains on the rest of this site.
4) The KMI school, and KMI practitioners, welcome other therapeutic inputs to your process. KMI is compatible with osteopathy, chiropractic, cranial work, and most forms of massage, yoga, and exercise.
We recognize that no way is the 'one true way' in manual and movement therapy, and we are always learning from other disciplines. Sometimes we absorb what we learn into our work, sometimes what we learn tells us when to refer to the other competent professionals within the wide spectrum of healing available.
5) The KMI series is a project, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The idea is to create the conditions where the client is independent and stable on their own, not to create a long-term dependency on the therapist or continued work. Of course people come back for more work, but not on a continuous basis. This work does its best in short, intense periods of work, followed by longer periods of absorption. We want you, within a reasonable period of time, not to need us anymore.
-Tom Myers, www.anatomytrains.com