How Does Massage Therapy ‘Measure Up’?


When people hear the term “massage therapy,” people often just stop at the “massage” part. After all massage feels good and is often thought of as a luxury that you give as a gift to yourself or others. But the other part of that term – the “therapy” part – tells us that this work can be more than just relaxing…it can help improve your health and well-being too. To do so as effectively as possible, we as massage therapists need to know a little bit about your body.

What’s an Assessment?

When we talk about the term “assessment,” in any type of therapeutic sense we’re really discussing measurement. Every joint in the human body has a certain distance it should travel.

For instance, If I were to lift my arm forward, I know that it should get to about 180 degrees, or straight up. If I bring my arm backwards, it should reach 45 degrees, or half a right angle.

Ah, but what happens if I can’t reach that far? Or I can reach further than I expect? That’s when we start thinking about hypo- (too little) or hyper- (too much) mobility at a joint. What’s so bad about that? Wouldn’t it be nice to go as far as possible, to get a high score on those range of motion tests? Well, let’s think about what moves those joints…muscles!

It’s all in the muscles.

When a joint is hypo-mobile in a direction and can’t go as far as we’d like it could mean that the muscles or muscles being stretched are too short and limiting that movement. A hyper-mobile joint may mean that  a muscle that’s supposed to help limit movement is too long.

The problem with all this is that muscles have a certain length that they’d like to be and get cranky if they’re too short or long. Short muscles feel stuck and long muscles feel tight or sore. Neurological differences can occur too when such asymmetry exists.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say someone is a dental technician, and has to work with very precise movements of the fingers. Eventually those muscles are going to shorten through overuse and which could lead to injury. Massage therapists can tell that a wrist is supposed to extend to about 70 or 80 degrees. When it can’t then things start to get a little crowded at the wrist. A possible result? Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Things can get more complicated than that when dealing with injury, but the basic idea is the same. Massage therapy can help to bring symmetry back to the body, avoiding compensatory and overuse injuries. That’s the “therapy” part. But the plain old massage part is pretty good too.

If you have any questions please email me or comment on my post here.

Thank you for listening and looking forward to reading your thoughts and comments.