A Glossary of Healing Bodywork

The following glossary describes a variety of healing bodywork options. When considering which option is right for you, it is best to follow your first instinct and give the technique a fair try. Three sessions should generally show some level of improvement — either physically, mentally or spiritually — but be aware that healing is a lifelong commitment and its effects are cumulative. The more you work on your healing, the better you will feel on all levels.

The key to successful healing is to search for a practitioner who resonates energetically with you — in other words, you are both on the same wavelength. True and lasting healing occurs on the energetic level, both within your own body and through the capable hands of your healing practitioner. You will know you have found the right one when you feel comfortable around this person, eager to go to each session and are experiencing some level of healing through your work. Although symptoms sometimes do worsen before they can get better, you will know that healing is occurring by your willingness to continue and your trust in the care that your practitioner is providing to you.

Acupressure: An ancient Chinese system of healing, finger and thumb pressure is applied to acupoints on the skin to stimulate the body’s electromagnetic currents, relieve specific conditions and promote good health. Acupressure is generally helpful for almost any condition but is especially good for musculoskeletal problems, blood circulation, stress, fatigue, energy revival, headaches, nausea and women’s health. Find an Acupressure practitioner here.

Acupuncture: The most complete Asian health care system, a highly trained acupuncturist inserts fine sterile needles into specific points on the body as a treatment for many disorders and to promote overall health. Can also include the application of heat and herbs to specific points. Acupuncture is especially useful in pain relief, anesthesia and musculoskeletal problems, as well as conditions involving the internal organs including the heart. It has been used in the treatment of virtually every dis-eased condition of the body, mind and spirit. Find an Acupuncturist here.

Alexander Technique: Movement awareness retraining system designed by Frederick Matthais Alexander to align posture and expand range of motion. Teacher quality and training are of prime consideration for optimum healing benefit in this technique. Alexander Technique is especially useful to improve back pain, headaches, repetitive strain injuries, bursitis, improve sports and dance performance. Learn more about Alexander Technique here.

Aromatherapy: Uses essential oils extracted from plants and herbs to treat conditions ranging from infections and skin disorders to immune deficiencies and stress. Not only can the beneficial properties of essential oils be inhaled (aroma), but they can also be absorbed through the pores of the skin. Find an Aromatherapy practitioner here.

Bates Method: A vision improvement program that uses a series of simple eye exercises to reduce eye stress and correct eye and vision-related disorders. Ophthalmologist William Bates, MD (1860-1931) was the first to discover that chronic eye problems were frequently stress-related.

Bioenergetics: A body-oriented form of psychotherapy, bio-energetics exaggerates certain movements, expressions and postures to trigger the release of tensions held in the body linked to buried memories and traumas. In individual or group sessions, past traumas can safely be explored. Especially suited for expressive individuals, or those harboring deep pain and conflict who would welcome the freedom to be more expressive. Learn more about Bioenergetic Analysis here.

Chiropractic: Seeks to diagnose and treat disorders of the spine, joints, and muscles using manipulation of the bones and sometimes deep muscle massage and manipulation. Especially suited for spine and neck disorders or injuries, as well as headaches. Sessions are conducted fully clothed. Find a Chiropractor here.

Network Chiropractic: Uses light supple movements to adjust each vertebrae in relationship to the rest of the spine, as well as in relation to the energetic healing of all humanity. Network chiropractic is suitable for specific spinal misalignment problems, muscular stiffness, reducing stress and improving overall wellbeing. Find a Network chiropractor here.

Craniosacral Therapy: A subtle corrective pressure applied to the skull and base of the spine that works in rhythm with the rise and fall of the cerebrospinal fluid. This modality is very gentle, yet can provide amazing results in relief from headaches, depression, muscular pain and the after-effects of stroke. A session takes place lying down on a bodywork table, fully clothed. Find a Craniosacral Therapy practitioner here.

Feldenkrais Method: A two-fold system of precise movements, exercises and lessons aimed at developing Awareness Through Movement (lessons and exercises) and Functional Integration (one-on-one touch and manipulation). Feldenkrais therapy strives for movement re-education of the client to improve posture, health and self-image. It is especially helpful for sports injuries, learning difficulties, neuromuscular conditions and multiple sclerosis. Sessions are conducted fully clothed; best results are achieved through longer term commitment to the learning process where stunning results can be quite common. Find a Feldenkrais practitioner here.

Hellerwork: Similar to Rolfing (see Rolfing), although it combines deep touch, movement re-education and verbal dialogue to facilitate an awareness of the mind/body connection along with the emotional content of the sessions. Hellerwork is especially helpful for structural imbalances as well as conditions that may be the result of injury, trauma or emotional stress.

Therapeutic Massage: Promotes general well-being, as well as addressing specific health concerns, through rubbing, stroking, kneading, and applying pressure to the muscles of the body using oil. Massage eases tension and stress in the body which boosts the immune and circulatory systems, as well as relieve headaches, joint disorders, high blood pressure, anxiety, digestive disorders plus many other diseased conditions. During a session, clients are usually nude or wearing underwear while lying on a massage table and draped with a sheet. Find a Licensed Massage therapist here.

Osteopathy: Touch and manipulation of the musculoskeletal system to diagnose structural problems and restore mobility as well as promote well-being. Osteopaths look for deeper underlying causes of serious health conditions such as coronary heart disease, chronic pain and illness. Find an Osteopath here.

Polarity Therapy: A system of energy balancing and manipulation of pressure points stimulating two points at once (positive and negative) to release energy blockages and intensify the flow of electromagnetic energy through the body. Polarity is especially helpful for relieving stress, fatigue, menopausal problems, headaches and CFS. Sessions are conducted lying down, either clothed or nude. Find a Polarity Therapy practitioner here.

Reiki: Originating in Japan, Reiki is the transmission of universal (Rei) healing energy (ki) from a Reiki practitioner who has been initiated by a Reiki Master of a particular lineage. Sessions involve light touch on the body and/or in the energy field of the body and are conducted fully clothed, and can also be conducted long distance by sending Reiki energy. Reiki has successfully been used to treat all physical, mental and spiritual conditions, requiring only the willingness of the client to receive Reiki energy. Find a Reiki practitioner here.

Reflexology: Pressure placed on specific reflex points on the feet or hands which correspond to every part of the body including organs and glands to stimulate circulation, detoxification and revitalization of those areas. Reflexology reduces pain, releases energy blockages and provides an effective preventative/maintenance healthcare system to treat almost any disease or condition. Find a Reflexology practitioner here.

Rolfing: System of deep tissue massage (without oil) and muscle fascial manipulation using firm pressure applied with elbows, fingers, and knuckles, designed to bring the body into vertical alignment. Rolfing is especially suited to heal chronic, deeply held imbalances and sometimes can be painful to undergo, although profound in its success in ultimately relieving pain. Clients are nude or in underwear lying on a bodywork table during sessions. It is especially useful with poor posture, sports injuries, persistent muscle and back pain or stress related problems. Find a Rolfing practitioner here.

Rosen Method: A system of movement re-education exercises, light massage and verbal exploration of past and present emotional issues to release old traumas and restore physical health. The method was developed by Marion Rosen, a physical therapist in the 1940s, who noticed that clients who benefited most from her treatments were those who verbalized their related emotions during the sessions. Sessions are conducted on a bodywork table with the client lightly clothed.

Shiatsu: Japanese pressure point massage (without oil) using fingers, thumbs, elbows, knees and even feet designed to awaken energy flow through acupuncture meridians. Shiatsu massage is done clothed, nude or partially nude on a mat on the floor or low table and can involve a unique combination of lifts, stretches and twists as the practitioner manipulates the entire body of the client. Shiatsu promotes deep release, relaxation and rejuvenation and is especially helpful with fatigue, CFS, headaches, digestive disorders, circulatory problems, insomnia and menstrual pain. Find a shiatsu practitioner here.

Therapeutic Touch: Developed during the ‘70’s by Dolores Krieger, RN, Therapeutic Touch refers not to physical contact but to energy contact channeled through the palms and is especially popular among nurses and doctors as an adjunct healing treatment. Patients are fully clothed during a session which typically lasts half an hour. Clinical studies have found TT to produce physiological effects such as altered enzyme activity, increased hemoglobin levels, accelerated healing of wounds and reduction in levels of pain, stress and anxiety. It is also used as a pre- and post operative treatment. Find a Therapeutic Touch practitioner here

Tragerwork: A series of light, gentle and playful exercises called “Mentastics” which include therapist manipulation of a client through rocking, stretching and pulling the head, limbs and torso to help the body loosen tense muscles and stiff joints. Developed during the late 1920’s by Dr. Milton Trager, MD, this intuitive and free flowing approach to movement re-education is particularly helpful for people suffering from neuromuscular disturbances such as polio, muscular dystrophy and MS, as well as injury and the degenerative effects of aging. Find a Trager practitioner here.

• Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide compiled by The Burton Goldberg Group, Future Medicine Publishing, 1994
• Bodywork Basics by Anne Kent Rush, Dell Publishing, 2000
• The Complete Family Guide to Alternative Medicine by C. Norman Shealy M.D., Ph.D, 1996
• Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters, Dorling Kindersely Limited, 1997

Paulette Richard-O’Rourke is a certified Whole Health Educator and Reiki Master Teacher, as well as the director of Cape Cod Center for Whole Health located in Mashpee, MA. For more information about the Center which offers a metaphysical store and full range of healing services, please call 508-539-2885 or email cccwh@capecod.net.