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UPDATED August 2015

The bulk of most massage therapists’ work is with clients in chronic pain. To offer the most beneficial treatment, bodyworkers continually study mechanisms of pain, observe dysfunctional patterns in their clients, interview clients to uncover the source of their pain and learn new methods to relieve pain. However, helping clients triumph over their pain could be simpler than most practitioners realize. In fact, when working with each individual, the massage therapist’s mindset could possibly be the most powerful aspect of the healing process.

Defining Pain

When we are hurt, there is no question what pain is. From a physiological perspective, pain is defined as a bodily discomfort. From a psychological perspective, pain is regarded as an unpleasant sensory experience or emotional suffering. As recognized by Livingston in his book, Pain Mechanism: A Physiologic Interpretation of Causalgia and Its Related States, “The chief difficulty encountered in a search for a satisfactory definition for pain, is the fact that it can be considered from either a physiologic or psychological perspective. Any consideration of pain, by one approach alone, without due regard for the other, is incomplete.”

Clearly, the experience of pain encompasses phenomena larger than what can be explained in simple anatomical terms. By jumping outside of the confines of biology, physicists may have a firmer grasp of what pain actually is. Since Albert Einstein taught us early in this century that matter and energy are interchangeable, quantum physics has amply confirmed his theory. Despite this universally understood concept, conventional medicine continues to address the body primarily as matter. Fortunately, massage therapists and other complementary medical providers are able to bridge this disparaging gap in understanding pain with insight into the dynamics of energy.

Healing with Energy

Comprehending the presence of energy throughout every human being is a cornerstone for many types of bodywork. In general, physical, chronic pain is viewed as a disruption of a person’s energy flow. Especially prominent in the modalities of acupressure derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Therapeutic Touch, encouraging unobstructed energetic movement is the basis for many effective pain relief sessions.

  • Acupressure techniques are mostly designed to stimulate energy circulation within energetic pathways (meridians) closing the “gates” of the pain-signaling system. In Chinese culture and medical thought, energy is the source of life and its ability to flow without restriction is the primary gauge of a person’s health. A Chinese proverb says that “where there is blockage, there is pain and where there is no blockage, there is no pain.” This refers to the definition of pain as an energetic blockage, and removing the blockage eliminates pain.As a point is pressed, the muscle tension yields to the finger pressure, enabling the fibers to elongate and relax and blood to flow freely. Increased circulation also brings more oxygen and other nutrients to affected areas. This increases the body’s resistance to illness and promotes a longer, healthier, more vital life. When the blood and bioelectrical energy circulate properly, we have a greater sense of harmony, health, and well-being.
  • Practitioners of Therapeutic Touch incorporate the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being. It has been theorized that healing touch affects patients through the connection of energy fields within and outside of the physical body. The treatment of symptoms is thought to occur when the movement of energy within the “human energy field” stimulates internal, self-balancing mechanisms.

Mindset

Massage therapists who can appreciate the effortless conversion between energy and matter, who recognize the association between hampered energy flow and pain, and who use their own energy to positively influence their client’s healing process are just a short step away from recognizing the importance of their mindset for healing. Assuming Einstein’s E=mc2 is correct, practitioners purposefully channeling their energy toward free flowing, pain-free energy flow can transfer that same intention to their client’s physical body.

While advising therapists to think positively about their client’s health condition is easy to instruct, the biggest challenge lies in the intense quest to provide pain relief. After a thorough interview and evaluation of a client’s complaints, it is natural for practitioners to mentally become completely absorbed in their client’s painful condition. The most common thought process entails focusing on a client’s pain and imbalance, and then shifting to how to relieve the pain and correct the imbalance. Unfortunately, both of these perceptions still hold the painful problem as the primary focus.

Instead of staying in the frame of mind associated with pain, practitioners can be much more valuable to their clients by completely reversing their perspective. With an intentional focus and visualization on your client feeling great and experiencing free and easy energy flow throughout their body, you can influence their cells to entrain with your thoughts. Practitioners able to envision their clients being pain-free while working with them can exert a subtle yet more powerful influence on their health than any medical intervention possibly could.

Using positive mental imagery for accomplishing a goal is nothing new. Professional athletes do it to prepare for a sports event and entrepreneurs write a business plan to ensure their goals come to fruition. Confirmed by quantum physics, acupressure theory and the therapeutic touch model, massage therapists can improve their clients’ outcomes by maintaining a positive mindset. By holding a mental vision of health for their clients, bodyworkers can assist in their transformation from congested energy and subsequent pain into a state with freely flowing energy that is completely pain-free.

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