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Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology for the Massage Therapist

by Su Fox and Darien Pritchard

listed in massage

[Image: Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology for the Massage Therapist]

Studying anatomy and physiology can be very daunting especially for an adult or mature student who is likely to have done away with their text books (and their learning skills) for some years. As a massage student there is also the challenge (and a strain for some) of learning the massage movements, the major skeletal muscles, regional anatomy, application and so forth. Studying can make such demands on the student and novice practitioner but the pressure can be eased off with the aid of a good introductory book on the subject, and this is a good example.

The book describes the basics of anatomy and physiology with the use of very clear and simplified terminology so that the reader, whether they belong to the younger generation or the mature adult, can follow it easily. The diagrams and illustrations are also very well presented, and the additional two-tone colour makes them even more attractive. The book is aimed at the student and the novice massage practitioner and this is reflected in the depth of subject matter that depicts sufficient information without being too complex or overwhelming. Where it fits into the recommended text books will depend on the standards set by the school using it for this purpose.

The book is divided into four sections: 1 – building blocks; 2 – the movement systems; 3 – the communication systems; and 4 – the maintenance and growth and repair section. Each of these sections is subdivided into a number of chapters. Section 1 covers some terminology and the essentials of chemistry, cells, tissues, organs and systems of the body. In section 2, the movement system focuses on terminology related to movement, on the skeletal system and on the muscular system. Clearly most of the book is allocated to these last two systems (140 pages out of a total of 280). Both of these systems are essential knowledge to the massage therapist; their precedence over the other systems however may be controversial. That said, a detailed preparation in the skeletal anatomy, the physiology of bone, arthrology and some common disorders of the skeletal system is fundamental to such a text and these topics are well covered in this section. The origins and insertions of muscles are described in great detail and accompanied by very good diagrams and illustrations. Muscles are also grouped according to their combined movements, for instance, muscles that move the shoulder joint; muscles which move the hip and so forth. Looking at the function of a muscle as part of a group, in addition to its individual action, is very useful as it helps the reader to comprehend the application of anatomy. Massage students always need guidance on palpating tissues, especially the muscular system, and good instructions on tissue awareness are provided in the chapter on the physiology of muscles.

Section 3, the communication systems encompasses the nervous, endocrine, immune and integumentary systems. These systems are adequately described (77 pages) with a good balance of information and illustrations. Included in this section is a brief introduction to the physiological and emotional dynamics of 'touch'. This is a very interesting and indeed important aspect of massage, and one every therapist should make a point of researching, it is therefore extremely valuable to introduce it here. Chapter 13 describes the various massage movements and their general physiological effects. Disappointedly enough, aside from one reference to Tiffany Field who heads the Touch Therapy Research Institute, the authors seem to dismiss the vast amount of research material that provides evidence on the biochemical, biomechanical and psychological effects of massage. Many clinical trials have been carried out on the effects of massage. Whilst not always entirely conclusive they have provided good evidence of the connections between massage and some of the systems of the body and in the treatment of many conditions. Research material also provides background knowledge to the physiology of the massage movements and therefore helps the student understand what they are trying to achieve with massage. The importance of research cannot be overstated especially if the standards of training are to be improved.

Section 4, maintenance, growth and repair, takes in the respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular, urinary and reproductive systems. All these systems are very briefly described (35 pages to cover all the five systems) including the anatomy and physiology, some illustrations and short descriptions on some of the common pathology.

Recommendations for the application of massage is given in most of the chapters, interspersed with the pathology, the anatomy and the physiology.

This information is rather brief and not backed by any research material but it is very useful to give the student and the newly qualified practitioner some indication on how massage can be applied. Contraindications to the massage are also included and this is equally valuable as it is imperative that the massage therapist is able to practice safely.

Whilst not in great depth, the book offers a good introduction to anatomy, physiology and pathology. It also gives the student and the newly qualified practitioner good guidance to the theory and practice of massage.

Mario-Paul Cassar
Corpus Publishing Ltd

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