Knowing the “tricks” to make “massage magic”

There are a few “tricks” to making “massage magic” – hence my nickname, “Massagician.”

But with any “magic,” a lot of it is illusion. It’s the skill of the magician and usually it’s not what you see – or, in this case, FEEL. It’s what you DON’T.

While you’re distracted by your problem areas, a skilled and experienced remedial massage therapist is considering what’s not so obvious or hidden and may be the real cause of or contributing factors to your pain.

Here’s an analogy I sometimes use if I need to explain to a massage client why it’s usually necessary to look at the “big picture,” rather than just focus on the sore areas, if you want to perform “massage magic.”

Say you’re a recently graduated technician with not much experience and get called to fix an old but multi-functional and expensive photocopier. You’ve heard that motherboard failures in that particular model are fairly common (not unlike common neck and shoulder pain and occasional headaches).

You replace the motherboard (massage and stretch the neck and shoulders and maybe suggest some home exercises/stretches) and it fixes the problem – temporarily.

A week later the client calls to say the photocopier needs fixing – again. It’s the motherboard – again. Must have been a bad batch of them, you think! So, you replace it – again. Quick job.

A week later, the same thing happens. There must be a bit more to this than meets the eye. So, you also check the on/off switch and test the power point the lead is plugged into and dust off a couple of other things.

(Also massage the whole back. You maybe find a couple of tight spots but they weren’t causing any pain). All good, but you replace the motherboard – again.

The client hasn’t been TOO concerned at this stage: the problem is faulty motherboards, probably from a bad batch, and the power supply was checked. So all but the first motherboard should be replaced on warranty. (You’re a “professional,” so the client trusts you to know what you’re doing and giving the best service and advice).

Another week later, the photocopier needs fixing – again. Another failed motherboard. The client is getting desperate so decides to buy a new photocopier (switch to another therapist who might be more experienced and look “outside the square”).

What was ACTUALLY wrong? Every week when the new cleaner comes after hours, he’s meticulous and moves the photocopier on its mobile stand just a bit to clean behind it, then pushes it back. It’s not even obvious to the staff who work there that was done.

What the inexperienced technician didn’t know or check was that there a small piece of bare wire coming from the on/off switch, but it’s out of sight on a quick inspection. When the copier is moved, the bare wire briefly touches something connecting to the motherboard and that’s what was shorting it.

The big problem for the client is because the real fault wasn’t the motherboards, they weren’t under warranty. And because the photocopier was older, the technician’s time wasn’t covered either.

Bottom line: a lot of time, effort and money wasted for no lasting result – not to mention the frustration and stress of having to get the technician back (or keep going back for MORE physical therapy). And the client had to buy a new photocopier anyway.

(Long story, I know. So I don’t tell it all that often.)

When a client tells me they have tried a range of treatments from physical bodywork therapists of various types for their particular problems and nothing has worked, and their ongoing pain prevents them doing the home exercises, it REALLY is time to think “outside the square.” Take the “bare wire” approach, right from the start.

That is actually needed with many common muscle and joint pains, headaches, migraines, etc.

I DO IT WITH EVERY CLIENT. It means I can usually make a significant difference in just one session – rather than keep them coming back week after week for more of the same treatment.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you start getting headaches – fairly regular but not severe enough to be so concerned you see a GP. You know your neck and shoulders are tight from your occupation or study, so you just put it down to that. Perhaps you’re in a stressful job and you’re on your feet most of the day.

But – long story short – what if your hip flexor muscles (from the side of your spine across the FRONT of your hips to your thighs) are tight? That creates a forward tilt to your hips. By default, the back of your hips pulls up, shortening the muscles all along the spine to your shoulders, neck and base of the skull.

If one hip is higher, there will also be muscle imbalances on either side of the spine. The interesting thing is there has been no pain whatsoever in your hip flexors even though you are using them every time you sit, walk, run, jog, climb and bend or lift!

Another possible scenario: what if your feet don’t strike the ground correctly? That then tightens your leg muscles and turns your leg bones out of sync at the knee (which also may be a reason for knee pain).

This in turn pulls your hips out of alignment and creates muscle imbalances right up the spine into the shoulders and neck to the base of the skull and even into the jaw. The tension has nowhere left to go and that’s what’s really causing your headaches!

You’d be surprised how often that happens (but they are only two of many possible and common scenarios, including the “chicken and egg” type).

In these cases, your hip and foot alignment is a bit like that bare wire – even though you aren’t getting any obvious pain there. So, the REAL issue is not obvious – just like the bare wire.

Yes, your neck and shoulders might be tight, but it wasn’t only your occupation or study that made them tight and pulled them out of alignment in the first place. That’s why a quick neck and shoulder massage gave you TEMPORARY relief.

Probably at least 90 percent of the new clients I see who complain of neck and shoulder pain and/or headaches have hip and/or foot alignment issues – mild to severe – they weren’t even aware of.

There are usually a few simple options to make these alignment changes.

But the “massage magic” happens when your therapist(/technician) knows to look there to start with, what to do about it, and how to treat all the various compensating effects they may be having throughout your body.

So, if you want some “massage magic,” find a therapist who doesn’t just focus all their attention on where you said you were sore and keep you coming back week after week for more of the same treatment.

David Hall ©


Townsville massage therapist based in Mount Louisa and specialising in Remedial Massage for all types of muscle and/or joint aches and pains, headaches and migraines, and preparation for and recovery from sporting, exercise and other fitness activities including the range of Defence fitness tests. I guarantee the best value for money remedial massage in Townsville. CALL NOW on (07) 4774 6973 or 0438 774 819 to book an appointment.