Adding Massage to Your Knowledge Base, by Becca, LMT

This article isn’t your normal food and ammo stockpiling type of article.  I believe those things are extremely important or I wouldn’t be reading this blog on a regular basis.  I do, however, believe that this subject matter is as important as stockpiling food, ammo, medical supplies.  Stockpiling our knowledge base may be even more important than stockpiling these other items, because no matter how prepared you are you never know where you will be when the SHTF.  One aspect of your knowledge base that I would like to suggest you increase your stockpile is in the areas of therapeutic massage. 

Most people will read this article and scoff at the suggestion that I just made, but I assure you that the idea of adding a solid working knowledge of therapeutic massage techniques to your TEOTWAWKI knowledge base could be the difference between surviving and thriving.  Massage has been a healing therapy for as long as man has walked this earth.  Think about it, when we were children, before we knew about Band-Aids to heal boo-boos, we would instinctively rub the part of our body that hurt.  Even now as adults, if you have a head ache you will most likely take off your glasses and rub the areas around your eyes (temples, jaw, even your neck).   Massage therapy is a part of our make-up.  We use it to heal ourselves and comfort those around us.   It is my belief that understanding massage techniques and how to properly apply them will make my survival much easier for many reasons. 
These are the main reasons I am thankful that I have training as a massage therapist and why I believe you should include a working knowledge of massage therapy techniques into your SHTF knowledge bank.

  1. Muscle recovery is a process that our bodies go through anytime we work it beyond its normal level of activity.  The metabolic processes that take place to allow your muscles to move create waste products that can settle in the muscle tissues and cause stiffness and soreness. When you push your body’s limits it doesn’t have time to remove these waste products on its own.  This is part of the reason we are a little sore after we increase our work out in the gym or try that next level hiking trail.  Basic massage techniques can be used with a basic stretching routine to increase muscle recovering.   These techniques will help manually break down these metabolic waste products that settle in the tissue as well as increase blood flow to the area helping to remove the waste products to be cleaned out of your system. Most TEOTWAWKI scenarios include situations where our daily activity levels will be increased exponentially.  How much work will it be to carry your BOB to your next site,  set camp, prepare the area to ensure safety, gather water and food, try to get a few hours of sleep only to break camp at sunrise and do it all over again the next day?  This will be your day to day existence until you reach your retreat area or find a suitable location to make an extended stay.  Relying on your knowledge of basic massage techniques will give your body an extra boost on its way to recovery that will increase your chances of reaching your retreat.
  2. It is this humble massage therapist’s opinion that human touch is essential for maintaining a healthy physical and mental state of being.  During a time of great stress we may be less likely or unable to seek out the simple touches that give us a sense of being connected to those around us. In a SHTF scenario there will be little semblance to our everyday life, we will be under physical stress, mental stress and most likely emotional stress. We will most likely feel more disconnected from the world around us than at any other time in our life [except for maybe puberty ;)].  The twenty to thirty minutes that you and your retreat group set aside each night to go through a basic massage routine with each other will not only help with the muscle recovery but it will serve as a daily reminder that there are other people working towards the same goal as you: surviving.  This reminder will serve as a method to increase trust and connectedness to those around you.  This sense of connectedness and trust will literally make it easier for you to sleep at night.  It is important to understand that massage therapy is in no way, shape or form sexual in nature.  As a professional massage therapist, this is a misconception that I need to educate people about on a daily basis. 
  3. At some point in time you will need something that you don’t have and a system of bartering may be in place in many communities that you come across.  Massage therapy is an important healing skill that will cost you nothing other than your time and knowledge.  You may not have to trade precious life necessary equipment, food, or ammunition.  Instead, offer your healing hands for trade of the item.  Keep in mind that most people may not understand how important massage is to increasing their well-being, so an important part of your barter will be educating those you will be trading with.  Also, keep in mind that your trade of massage may not hold as much value in a TEOTWAWKI situation, as evidenced by the fact that most people are not willing to pay for a massage when money is tight.  But, if your knowledge of massage techniques is strong enough, you may be able to start a working relationship with another small community. This could be the start of bartering relationship between you and other people you come across, the same way a doctor might barter his or her services for fresh meat or produce.  Please keep in mind that during a massage the person giving the massage is just as vulnerable as the person receiving the massage, so in a TEOTWAWKI situation never work on someone alone, unless you absolutely trust them with your life.  Also, there are plenty of techniques that can be completed without removing clothing.
  4. The techniques that you learn are not just applicable to humans.  The animals that you may be using to help carry your gear will also benefit from your knowledge of these techniques.  For the same reasons that your body will benefit from them.  An over worked animal will not perform to a suitable standard if their musculature has not had enough time to recover. 
  5. Self Defense.  What?  That’s right; I am suggesting that my knowledge base of massage techniques can help me defend myself and my retreat group.  How?  Well, to have a solid foundation for performing massage you must have a solid understanding of the structure and function of the human body.  That means that I know where all the major arteries are located and approximately how deep they sit in the person approaching me.  Also, because of my training in functional assessment of the human body I can point out the site of muscle or joint weakness in the possible threat coming my way.  Because I know how the body works, I can tell you by watching the way a person moves if the limp they are displaying is affected, or caused by a weakness to the left or right side of the body.  This knowledge will help me determine my defense long before I am even within an arm’s reach of the person.

With a working knowledge and understanding of massage therapy you will also have a working knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology.  You will know about the muscles and how they work, the tendons and ligaments that keep the muscles attached to the bones, as well as the blood vessels that keep the muscles supplied with oxygen and energy necessary to work.  Once you understand how the body is meant to work then you can understand how to heal it.  A major plus to  having this knowledge is that even without any traditional medical training you will be able to assess some injuries and know how treat them as well as understand if the cut you or a person in your retreat group just received is an immediate threat to life or not.

Before I go any further, please, let me point out that I am not suggesting that a massage therapist has the knowledge base to diagnose and treat medical conditions.  However, as a massage therapist, I am better able to understand an injury to the body and how to correct the negative effects said injury will have on the function of the body as a whole.   This is why I suggest that understanding massage techniques is an extremely important skill set to add to your knowledge base.  Also, it is important to note that there are some medical conditions for which massage is contraindicated.  So, please, keep in mind that this article is only meant to convince you that these techniques are worth your time in learning.  Most of us do not have the time or money to go to medical school, but in order to become a certified massage therapist you only need to invest minimal amounts of money and your time.  But, unless you have an interest in being a massage therapist when you grow up I wouldn’t worry about becoming certified or licensed (though in most states you cannot practice or advertise your services as a massage therapist without being certified or licensed). 

When choosing the level of massage training you wish to add to your knowledge base please keep these things in mind: financial investment, time investment, and desired outcome.
If you have all the time and money in the world then I would suggest attending a massage program that will teach you the following areas of massage: basic anatomy and physiology, basic massage techniques and functional assessment.  This last part, functional assessment is the most important aspect of the training I received as far as I am concerned.  In this segment of training, you should be taught how to assess the human body for injuries by watching someone move as well as through various muscle testing techniques.  The muscle testing techniques help you to determine if therapeutic massage is indicated for the injury as well as which massage techniques to employ to treat the injury.  The aspect of assessment that teaches you to read the movements of the body will help you not only in treatment of injuries but also in a self-defense aspect as well.  In understanding the way everything is connected in human anatomy, you will be able to determine which side of the body is actually injured as well as where the weak point is located. 

If you have time but not a great deal of money, I would suggest that you seek out a therapist who is like minded and knowledgeable in their field and willing to trade their knowledge for skills you may possess.  This way you get the skill set without investing anything more than your time and own personal knowledge in return.  These knowledge base/skills set trades will not only give you what you want but it will give you important experience in bartering based on the value of knowledge. Check your state laws because this could be considered and internship, in which case you may be able to sit for the licensure exam should you choose to become a licensed therapist.   If you choose to go this route and the person making the knowledge trade with you does not seem to have a strong set of functional assessment skills I would strongly suggest obtaining a copy of Functional Assessment in Massage Therapy by Whitney W. Lowe.  This is the book rom which I was taught functional assessment and I still find it to be extremely helpful when dealing with issues I do not see on a regular basis.  If this book does not seem to help you understand functional assessment then find another, the important part of functional assessment is that you understand what you are looking for if you can’t get it from a book find a practitioner or DVD that will help you understand what you are trying to learn.

If time and money are issues then I would suggest that you find a few good books on therapeutic massage and functional assessment.  I have already mentioned the book by Lowe for functional assessment, so my favorite book to teach you the basics of therapeutic massage is Theory and Practice of Therapeutic Massage.  This book gives you a basic foundation for anatomy and physiology as well as massage history and techniques.  If you are going to get all of your massage knowledge base form books I ask you to also consider the following books to add to your library: Trail Guide to the Body Student Handbook (4th Edition) by Andrew Biel, Mosby’s Pathology for Massage Therapists, 2nd Edition by Susan G. Salvo BEd LMT NTS CI NCTMB.

Once you have a foundation for therapeutic massage I would encourage you to seek out additional training and information concerning three specific areas of massage. Sports Massage, Lymphatic drainage massage, and essential oils and herbs for massage.  Sports massage techniques prepare the body for strenuous activity as well as promote muscle recovery after strenuous activity.  Lymphatic drainage helps the body to remove lymphatic fluid from areas of the body where lymph vessels may have been damaged.  Improper lymphatic drainage can lead to painful and debilitating swelling of extremities.  A strong knowledge base in essential oils and herbs used to enhance the benefits of therapeutic massage can increase the benefits while possibly reducing the number of treatments necessary to reach the same goal.  Also, once the SHTF, there may be limited access to the medical care we are used to receiving and a working knowledge of essential oils and herbs could benefit more people than just those who choose to receive massage.

Please remember that practicing massage therapy with proper training can be dangerous if you are not paying attention to what you are doing.  This means that practicing without proper training can be even more dangerous.  For your safety and for the safety of those around you I encourage you to seek proper training of some sort before you begin using massage as a treatment for any ailment.