Body Sense

SUMMER | 2018

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Page 12 of 17—your resource for all things bodywork 13 Cupping When I refer to cupping as a form of tapotement, I am not referring to the popular form of cupping that uses suction to lift the tissue. Rather, I am referring to the use of the massage therapist's hands in the form of a cup, like when you cup your hands to scoop up water. The cupped hands strike the body with the palms face-down, in a quick, rhythmic pace, resulting in a hollow sound as the hands contact the body. Hacking This form of tapotement involves the use of the sides of the hands in a "karate chop" type of position. You have likely seen this technique used in movie scenes of people receiving massage. It is, again, applied with a quick, rhythmic pace. Beating While beating sounds like something you would not want your massage therapist to do to you, it actually feels really good! The massage therapist's hands are held in a soft fi st while applying the characteristic quick, rhythmic, repeated striking of tapotement massage. As with cupping, hacking, and plucking, the therapist's wrists are soft rather than stiff, which allows the stroke to feel gentle and stimulating instead of hurtful or forceful. Tapping Tapping is the same as cupping, hacking, and beating, except the massage therapist applies the technique with their fi ngertips. Plucking Plucking is somewhat the black sheep of the tapotement family. Instead of using a downward striking force onto the client's body, the therapist uses fi ngertips to gently "pluck" at the skin, as if to slightly raise it from underlying tissue. It is not, however, intended to be a deep stroke that engages the underlying tissue. The action simply mimics a lifting motion, but lightly, with thumb and fi ngertips, as if easily plucking something small off the fl oor. WHY DO IT? So why on earth would a massage therapist want to strike their client's body? There are many known benefi ts to this approach, some of which can vary per client. Following are some of the benefi ts. Warming the tissue If you have ever slapped a part of your body, you'll notice a red mark quickly appears. Slapping, tapping, beating, hacking, and cupping all produce the same result. Pink or light red skin indicates that blood fl ow has raised to the surface of the skin, a circulatory benefi t of tapotement. Revitalizing and/or relaxing sore and tired muscles Our skin and underlying muscles contain a lot of nerve endings. The rhythmic pace and light striking action of tapotement are stimulating to these nerve endings and can have the effect of soothing and relaxing tired muscles, as well as invigorating them. Depending on the needs of the client, either outcome is possible. Both are positive results. Loosens areas of fl uid buildup When tapotement is applied to the back over the area where the lungs are, it can stimulate the removal of built-up mucus, especially after having a cold or bronchitis. Similarly, in areas where muscles are tight, blood can have a hard time fl owing freely. Application of tapotement to these tight muscles can loosen them enough to create space for blood to fl ow anew. WILL A MECHANICAL DEVICE SUFFICE? These days, there are a lot of mechanical massage devices on the market to encourage people to massage themselves when they can't or won't receive a massage. While these mechanical devices can indeed support you with the benefi ts outlined above, caution should be taken when using them. First, these devices don't have the ability to adapt their pressure or intensity like a human massage therapist can. Often, they are too intense, and even the lowest settings are not gentle enough. Second, you can overuse a mechanical device to the point of causing overstimulation of the nerve endings, resulting in numbness or tingling. This may not cause permanent damage, but in some cases it can. If you use a mechanical percussive device, please use it in moderation and listen carefully to the signs your body gives you when it has had enough. You should see pink skin, not red skin. Also, percussive techniques, whether received from a mechanical device or a massage therapist's hands, should never be done over bony structures (like the spine or knee cap) or sensitive, unprotected organs (like the kidneys). Finally, there is truly no replacement for human touch. When a skilled massage therapist touches you, they are exchanging energy with you. They are also feeling your tissues, and adapting their approach based on what they feel. No mechanical device can sense a human being like another human being can. A POSITIVE BEAT Hopefully, knowing a bit more about tapotement, and how and why it is applied, will encourage you to relax into it. It's an age-old technique for a reason, and the benefi ts are many. If your massage therapist doesn't apply this stroke very often, feel free to ask for it by name. Every massage therapist is trained in this basic approach. So, go get your beat on, and feel the goodness! B S Cindy Williams has served the massage profession as a practitioner, school administrator, instructor, curriculum developer, and mentor since 2000. She enjoys the challenge of blending structure with creative fl ow to provide balance in her classroom, bodywork practice, and life.

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