In Part 1 of this article, I presented a framework for understanding different kinds of bodywork based on four categories: relaxation, fixing, management and transformation. Here I continue that exploration by focusing on the last two categories – management and transformation.
Instead of revealing the cause of pain or dysfunction, medical diagnoses, based on medical imaging, mistakenly focus on symptoms and conditions in isolation from the rest of the body. By prescribing painkillers for pain, tension and pulled muscles, physicians only manage the symptoms; they do not resolve the underlying causes. Surgery is frequently recommended based on medical imaging. Most people don’t want invasive medical procedures. Fortunately, clinical evidence shows that right kind of bodywork can be more effective and safer than conventional approaches. However, mainstream physicians usually don’t know enough manual methods and bodywork to recommend them. Even a stomach ache can be alleviated using pressure points! Bodywork is a much better alternative, because you are no longer hiding the symptoms with medication, which also has toxic side effects. Working directly on the body can alleviate the pain by fixing the conditions in the muscles, myofacial or structure that cause it. But participation in bodywork is usually passive, and you rely on the proficiency of the practitioner.
You can also be an active agent in your healing process and achieve deeper transformative change. Through self-education, you can discover the actual source of the pain or dysfunction and how to treat the root causes. Exercise, lifestyle changes, such as diet, and even psychological work may be necessary. This approach does not solely rely on the practitioner, because you learn how to work with you own body and underlying causes. For example, you might have to work with your posture and life-style habits. It’s not only a matter of seeking temporary relief or avoiding activities, like sports; there may be an underlying structural imbalance (such as hip rotation) that needs realignment. Psychological patterns, emotional stress and trauma may also be involved.
In a “managing” approach, the practitioner becomes a guide as well as a hands-on technician. You learn both what the problem is and how to manage it. By learning how to deal with the problem and preventing it from recurring, you practice self-care so you minimize your reliance on therapy. This approach can also include behavioral changes and exercise, like strengthening and yoga. It’s especially effective for chronic and recurring conditions. It requires greater knowledge and experience about how your body works and interacts with the mind, and is an important step towards a holistic approach.
The last category, “transformation”, offers a great deal more possibilities. It requires much more knowledge on the part of the practitioner. When the practitioner acts as a facilitator, not just a “fixer” or “manager” we inevitably discover a lot about ourselves, our abilities and limitations, and how our life-style affects our health. People with long-term chronic health problems often have to turn to this approach to return to full health. The body, mind, emotions and life are considered an integrated dynamic whole. You discover the functional problem, the structural imbalances, and possibly unhealed physical and psychological traumas. This kind of work requires extensive training and knowledge on the part of the practitioner. Be cautious of practitioners going beyond their training and qualifications! Transformation happens at a deeper level and major life changes sometimes follow. Health and physical problems resolve because change happens in the whole person not just a part.
Manual approaches, like bodywork, are among the safest and most effective ways to deal with many health conditions. I always recommend that you first identify the problem and the underlying causes, and which non-invasive treatment options are available. Then determine what your goals are. Afterwards, you can find the right kind of bodywork and which practitioner is the right match. In both the short and the long run, this is the most empowering approach to your health and wellbeing.