Do you know the difference between massage and massage therapy?
The well-known Swedish massage
(naked, slathered with oil, and receiving a rubdown by a masseuse)
is a relaxing treat, but it does not address the causes of chronic pain.
Bodywork refers to forms of massage therapy that work more deeply and are able to alter and repair the physical body.

Bodywork Massage Therapy

Bodywork after an Injury
Effective Massage Therapies


There is a limit to the repairing and adjusting that a bodyworker can do during each short visit, in addition to imparting body awareness and education: posture, structure, holding patterns, and trapped body parts. Gliding is the glue between sessions that cooks in the bodywork, and has a lot to do with the degree of benefit you receive from bodywork. If you rely solely on a bodyworker to ‘fix’ you, then your pains will keep returning. You risk perpetuating old habits, and arriving at your next appointment in the same condition you were in at the beginning of the previous visit.

Bodywork Massage Therapy after an Injury

Following an injury, physiotherapy focuses directly on the injured part(s). Bodywork focuses on the insidious effects of compensation, with consideration for the injured parts. For example, following a hip or back injury, the neck and shoulders carry an extra load, lifting to take the pressure off the lower body. Working the neck and shoulders can be more beneficial than attempting to work on the recently injured hip or back.

Structural realignment (Rolfing or Hellerwork) can be too intense immediately after a serious injury but can be extremely valuable for ironing out injury-related compensation and holding patterns that the body has developed (often weeks, months, or years after the injury). Help your structural realignment therapist to determine the best course of treatment for you, by informing them of your injuries.

When injured groin ligaments affected the use of my legs, the effect of Rolfing my legs was reduced, and the muscles soon tangled again, because of compensation in the groin. Certain parts of my legs did not yield to Rolfing until after the groin had healed.

Effective Bodywork Massage Therapies

Each of the many types of bodywork massage therapies offers unique benefits. Self-massage is effective bodywork that you can give yourself at any time. It is important to go for the type of bodywork that you need, when you need it, and in the order that is most effective. Most of us need several types of bodywork over the course of our lifetime.


Shiatsu is known for its joyful pain (it hurts so good). With the receiver in a relaxed, rag-doll state, and loosely clothed, the therapist applies pressure (instead of needles) to acupuncture points. As with acupuncture, the effects travel through the meridians to unblock stagnant chi (and so relieve pain) in apparently unrelated locations in the body.

Ocean Breathing gives strength to the therapist and establishes a rhythm for the treatment. With no conscious effort, the receiver’s body experiences and remembers the breathing technique. A few minutes of Shiatsu can relieve a headache or other specific problems (for example, stiff neck, shoulder-blade knots); a 1-hour session leaves your entire body limber and supple.


Trager gently shakes, rocks, and rolls the body, subtly freeing it from long-held and unconscious holding patterns. A person with relaxed muscle tissue (as a result of deep tissue work) may still be retaining holding patterns, which Trager addresses.


The gentle touch of a good osteopath might give you the false impression that nothing is happening. Osteopathic adjustment can be relaxing, preventive, and therapeutic all at the same time. You do not need to have anything “wrong” to enjoy the benefits of an osteopathic manipulation of organs, bones, and muscles. Unblocking my meridians, through Shiatsu and self-massage, before and between osteopathic adjustments, seemed to make them even more effective.

Structural Realignment: Rolfing and Hellerwork

Fascia (the rubbery tissue that covers muscle) freezes muscles into an inefficient state as a result of some combination of injury, unconscious holding patterns, and repetitive daily movement. Both Hellerwork and Rolfing address frozen fascia over eight to ten treatments, after which you feel as if you have a new body. Hellerwork is derived from, but is slightly less painful than, Rolfing. I highly recommend that you go for one or the other at least once in your life.


In addition to the ironing of frozen fascia (deep tissue massage), Hellerwork adds movement education and personalized walking tips. The walking and movement re-education makes Hellerwork particularly effective and valuable in the long term.

As your posture changes, there are periods of several weeks during which you will be in pain from letting go of old habits. For example, in my first session the therapist pointed out how I held my shoulders back in an unconscious holding pattern (a bit of Yoga overdo). He ironed out the muscle group, and my homework was to keep allowing my shoulders to hang and be relaxed. This period was very painful, while the shoulders got used to their new, correct position.

If you Glide during the structural realignment period, reduce the Gliding time, since dormant muscles that have been awakened by the Hellerwork are not used to working—they are going out for their first Glide, and so are susceptible to retraining pain.

Hit Fall Water Treatment (Bruise Liniment)

Muscles can become gummed up from improper circulation caused by injury or protective body language. Hit Fall Water is a preparation of herbs steeped in gin (commonly sold in Chinatowns). When massaged, knuckled, tapped, and slapped into the skin, it causes bruises to appear where circulation is blocked. Pain tells you where some of the blockages are, which could be effects more than causes.

Because of compensation, there are other blocked areas; since all parts of the body are connected and related, regardless of where you start, following the bruise leads you through your compensation back to the source of the blocked circulation, which is usually an old injury, protective body language, or repetitive daily movement.

Relax the area that you are about to work. For example, you could rest an arm on a table, or a leg on a pillow. Resist the temptation to recoil, hunch, or hold. With drumming fingertips, tap, and gently slap Hit Fall Water into the skin (you can actually feel it go in); then rub harder, using your knuckles. Within a day or so of the treatment, any area that needs more work becomes bruised by the rubbing and tenderizing of the flesh (thus the name, bruise liniment). During your next session, start working on the bruised areas first.

A few Hit Fall Water treatments liberated wrenched arm muscles that had resisted all other methods that I had tried over 18 months. If you cannot find Hit Fall Water, Swedish Bitters (also a tincture, made from brandy instead of gin) is an acceptable substitute. Look in a health-food store, or buy Nature Works – Swedish Bitters from Amazon via our affiliate link.

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Bodywork Massage Therapy
Article Name
Bodywork Massage Therapy
Do you know the difference between massage and massage therapy? The well-known Swedish massage (naked, slathered with oil, and receiving a rubdown by a masseuse) is a relaxing treat, but it does not address the causes of chronic pain. Bodywork refers to forms of massage therapy that work more deeply and are able to alter and repair the physical body.