I am very interested in relaxation and whether or not those who find it difficult to relax can teach themselves using the experience of massage. The client that I used for my study also had reservations about being touched which added to the tension. Therefore, for her, massage would never usually be an option for her. I developed my own approach having researched as much as I could. There are techniques adopted within Swedish Massage that have the potential to bring about relaxation - constant physical contact with the body, light effleurage, picking up and rolling the muscles and joint movement. The relaxation response is a state in which your heart and breathing slow, your blood pressure goes down, your production of stress hormones decreases and your muscles relax.
The method I developed has 5 stages and given the clients adversity to touch, could potentially take months before any physical contact could be made. The first stage would be an informal conversation, an explanation of what would be involved in the massage but primarily concentrating on initiating a trusting relationship between client and therapist. The second stage consisted of her examining the wax that is used and witnessing a hand massage being carried out on another person. Questions must always be encouraged and full control given to the client so that they know they can end the session at any time. The second stage is aimed at reassurance of basic touch rather than therapeutic massage. In order to move on to the third stage the subject must be ready to receive a massage, starting with the hands and gradually incorporating arms and beginning to think about relaxation. The notion of receiving a properly structured massage must be realised and accepted at this point so that the trial can be progressed. The client controlled environment must always be maintained. The fourth stage is about moving onto other areas of the body. Neck and shoulders is the massage most readily associated with relaxation and so will be the ultimate goal. Inciting relaxation itself could well provoke an emotional reaction and so care must be taken to monitor the clients response and use reassurance and discretion when required. The client must nominate the new area to be treated when they are ready, again under their full contro. The fifth and final stage will be the client achieving personal acceptance, knowledge and understanding of physical and mental relaxation and using it in day to day activities to assist with and ease their functional life.
For the study I arranged the first session the first session as a trial which was in no way implied to be a commitment on her part to proceed with any follow up sessions if she did not want to. We talked for about 2 hours before I broached the subject of another session. Surprisingly she reported being ready to try massage. I treaded carefully and offered the demonstration which she agreed to. She observed a 5 minute hand massage on a volunteer subject and I talked through everything I was doing and why and requested feedback from the volunteer to introduce her to the sensations that she would be experiencing. The client then requested to move on to the third stage. Keeping it informal I performed the massage where she was sitting working on hands and then arms as well. She held herself tightly and I slowly encouraged deep breathing as I continued. Relaxation was noted as the body positioning began to slump and the head rested back the way. Tge fingers were the give away however, all 5 hyper extended and I gently curled them back in to a more rested position, the massage was continued at the clients request. Overall the first session highlighted a lack of awareness and understanding of her own physical reactions, it then became pertinent that during the study my feedback had to include her reactions immediately in order to create a learning curve for her.
The second session was performed using the massage table. An improvement in relaxation depth and my feedback highlighted both positive and negative reactions. Leg and foot massage was also done on this session at the clients request indicating an acceptance and appreciation of the treatment. Each session following this showed further advancement in the relaxation effect. The massage has taught the client about her physical tension, something that had never been properly addressed before due to an assumption that it could not be alleviated. Self awareness is developing as is an understanding of what relaxation feels like specifically to the client herself.She has reported feeling more comfortable with the sessions and that a state of relaxation is achieved following them. By learning the perception of relaxation she can now attempt to recreate the feelings outside of the treatment which is what will benefit her the most. Physically the body is benefitting from less tension and more mobility and she is becoming more open to the potentials of massage.