Dissection day for massage therapists (part one)

This week I spent a fascinating day at a hospital in central London improving my understanding of anatomy. Over the past few years I’ve met a few therapists who have been on dissection days and all have said it has had a profound impact on their understanding of anatomy – but understandably I’ve always been nervous at the prospect of seeing dead bodies and procrastinated at every opportunity.
So why is anatomy so important to massage therapists and what do you learn from a cadaver that can’t be learnt from a text book?

An understanding of anatomy is essential to clinical or remedial massage because it forms the basis for deciding a treatment plan. That’s not to say we don’t use intuition or let our hands guide us but a thorough knowledge of anatomy means that we know which muscles tend to be associated with particular ‘patterns’ of pain or postural problems. It allows us to do more precise and thorough work which in turn increases the chances of us getting a positive result for our clients.

So what’s wrong with learning from books? Nothing as a start – and I should say at this point that studying from books is the best place to start. Once you have a basic knowledge the opportunity to study a cadaver really takes your understanding of anatomy to the next level.

It does this in several ways. Firstly to help us learn anatomy books are somewhat stylised. That is they show the muscles in a way that helps us to learn with everything more clear and simple than the real thing. Secondly books (for now anyway!) only show things in 2D. Seeing things in 3D allows us to understand depth – essential really given than muscles are 3D and are often layered on top of each other. Thirdly books don’t allow us to feel the texture of different structures and tissues within the body – something that plays an important role in identifying ‘what’ we are treating when we place hands on our clients. Finally, for clarity books generally show the muscles stripped of any ‘fascia‘, the connective tissue that surrounds every muscle and forms a web through out our bodies, to put it crudely, filling the gaps. This fascia is important as it must also be stretched to get a longer lasting improvement with our treatments.

There were 16 massage therapists attending the dissection day. In part two I’ll describe the day in more detail.

Mark is a massage therapist at Natural Balance Therapies in Hove. To book a clinical / remedial massage with Mark visit the Natural Balance Therapies website. Here you can read about the therapies, therapists and centre as well as watching videos, booking online and buying gift vouchers.