While my hands are my primary tool for assessment and treatment, I do occasionally recommend the use of additional tools and treatment techniques within a therapeutic session. Here are a few of my most frequently used modalities!
Kinesio Tape is a soft, stretchy, hypoallergenic tape that provides feedback to the body through the skin and its sensory receptors. I like to think of it as an extension of my hands that lasts long after a treatment session! As a Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (CKTP), I am formally trained within Dr. Kenzo Kase's Kinesio Taping Method to perform movement-based assessments that inform my taping strategies. An effective taping application may improve lymphatic circulation to reduce swelling in an inflamed area, provide feedback for postural and movement repatterning, promote improved joint stability without limiting movement, and address areas of increased pain or sensitivity.
Cupping is a therapeutic modality derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine. While cupping has been traditionally performed with glass cups and fire to create a vacuum between the cups and a recipient's body, I personally use both silicone and plastic cups in my practice for both safety and increased control (no fire!). While cupping is often associated with circular marks left on the skin after treatment, I personally favor a much more gentle approach that leaves minimal, if any, marks -- those marks are caused by burst capillaries, and there is no evidence-based therapeutic value to them. I usually use cups to improve soft tissue mobility, sometimes combining a cupping application with movement and stretching.
Scraping is a form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM for short) that has gained a lot of popularity in physical therapy and massage therapy over the last few years. This modality involves gliding an instrument with a dull edge over the surface of the skin in order to improve soft tissue mobility and help soften scar tissue. Similarly to my approach to cupping therapy, I favor a gentle approach to scraping -- this approach is supported by the best available clinical research, is not painful, and leaves little to no marks on the skin following treatment.
Myofascial Release Tools
In addition to integrating myofascial release techniques into my massage work, I love educating clients on ways to achieve similar results independently with the use of simple therapeutic tools. Many of these techniques can be performed with foam rollers, foam or silicone balls, yoga blocks, and specialized tools such as a peanut-shaped double lacrosse ball. Once again, I favor a gentle approach to this self-release work, encouraging clients to allow their bodies to "melt" into the tool, rather than aggressively pushing into areas of increased pain and sensitivity. It takes over 2000 pounds of force to deform human fascia by 1% -- more pressure will not effectively change soft tissue, but can increase irritability in the area. However, gentle stretching and pressure can provide useful sensory feedback to your nervous system, which controls the amount of tone in your muscles.