I touched an aorta!
I attended the American Massage Therapy Association's National Convention in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago to get my education on, and I learned a lot of amazing things!
We're required by the AMTA to have 48 continuing education hours every four years, and I love it! I think it's so important to keep learning new things and adding to our toolbox. It's easy to get into routines with massages, but it's so important to treat each client each time with fresh eyes and hands. Everyone is different, and even the same people change from month to month. Research on the body and our effects on it changes, and new information is always available.
After 11+ years in this profession, I'm able to take some more advanced technique classes, and the ones I had this year were amazing! I went up a day early to take an all day seminar on advanced techniques for the anterior, lateral and posterior neck. A LOT of people need neck work these days, as most of us spend several hours a day either at the computer or looking down at our phones. All those muscles at the front of our necks get shortened in this position, so anterior neck work is becoming increasingly important! I learned a lot of very advanced neck techniques - how to work muscles where they actually attach to the cervical spine, even how to gently move the trachea aside to get to some of the muscles behind it! It sounds unpleasant, but it is amazing!
I also sat in on a fascinating research class on the effectiveness of massage therapy in improving quality of life. I feel like I could make a whole separate post about their research (and will at a later date). But the gist of it was that opioids are used by a very high percentage of the population, even higher in the military and among veterans, and overuse of them has become the number one cause of accidental death in the country. Massage was shown with certainty in the meta-analysis, conducted by a neutral third party research company, to improve quality of life (including things like pain reduction and general sense of well-being). So not only does massage feel good, it has been scientifically researched and proven to make changes in a person's life! Great news!
My all-day class on sciatic nerve pain was enlightening as well. In the past, techniques I've learned for the sciatic nerve focused on the point at which it usually becomes entrapped - where it passes through the pelvic bones in between the gluteal muscles. In this class, we learned how to access and affect tissues that connect to the sciatic nerve in several different places along it. Most importantly, this work was done without additional pain for the client! One of the access points they taught was essentially where the nerve comes out of the spinal cord, which is reached through the abdomen. They said, "You may feel a person's aorta. It's ok to touch it as long as you don't strum across it." As I was practicing on my partner, I sure enough felt her very strong heartbeat under my fingers!
Even after all these years, it's always amazing to reaffirm how much everything in the body is, indeed, connected. I'm so grateful to be learning, doing this work and bringing home new knowledge to my clients to help improve their lives!