The Philosophy of
Dimensional Massage Therapy

by Nancy Dail, BA, LMT, NCTMB

a close up picture of a woman's face, with the massage therapists hands by the bridge of her noseThe body is all connected; it has depth, width and length. The joints in the body provide a network of anatomical structures designed for constant use. In order to properly relax and unwind soft tissue, the massage therapist must manipulate as many of these structures as possible. Each joint is a collection of muscles that work in groups and in paired opposition. By systematically working on specific muscles that share contraction and opposite action, Dimensional Massage helps to create balance to the joint structures. Dimensional Massage encompasses an approach to technique and structure as well as to the sequence of the specific techniques for a particular soft tissue problem. The techniques are a collection of soft tissue manipulations that are designed to be efficient and sequentially specific to unwind the most resistant hypertonicities. Dimensional Massage should provide the least amount of discomfort to the client in the therapeutic process, and if performed correctly the techniques should be easy on the therapist’s hands and body.

Many Dimensional Massage techniques first utilize passive shortening of the length of the muscle to efficiently soften fibers. Other Dimensional Massage manipulations require rhythmically moving a joint at the same time as unwinding specific muscles or alternating clockwise and counterclockwise movements to joints or muscles. These “distractions” provide a mechanism for the client to give up “holding” patterns and the soft tissue fibers release built-up tension. All techniques should be sequenced according to the individual structure of the client. Therapists need to build a large “tool belt” of many techniques to adapt to the wide variety of structures and repetitive actions that plague humanity. Dimensional Massage provides a philosophical approach, sequence, and methodology of techniques for the massage therapist to utilize in a therapeutic practice.

Kinesiology for Manual Therapies was published by McGraw-Hill in January 2010. The above philosophy is peppered throughout the text, introducing technique after each major joint in the body. It took four years and my life’s work to complete this project. I was the lead author on this project, but was lucky enough to start with an existing book written by R.T. Floyd; I was assisted by Tim Agnew with his expertise in Athletic Training and Clinical Flexibility. I regularly teach Kinesiology for all the major joints and deep tissue techniques and have a practice in Waldoboro, Maine. My clients have challenging soft-tissue and structural problems that we are able to adddress utilizing the philosophy and techniques of Dimensional Massage.

Case Study

I confess I have passion for my work and revel in a good challenge. A recent client provided an opportunity for close study and analysis. A 50-year old woman presented with a constant headache, which she had had for the last year. Upon investigation of her medical history, I found she had suffered three car accidents over the course of 10 years, sustaining a whiplash injury in each incident. It was not until the most recent accident, a year earlier, that she started experiencing a constant headache that she described as a “spike” in the back of her head. She had a head-forward posture, rounded shoulders, pronated forearms, small kyphosis, rotated right hips, and interesting lower extremity issues, having worn a brace as a child. Palpation proved that her posterior cervical muscles were bands of tightened tissue, constantly fighting flexion and responding to trigger points and restricted motion. Layers of muscles needed to be released, and it became apparent that working with a chiropractor would be helpful, if not immediately necessary. After the first treatment, her headache was reduced from a six to a two on a pain level, and she had much more range of motion with her neck.

We discussed her options, and she agreed to see a chiropractor with whom I often share clients. Although she needed chiropractic adjustments, without the soft-tissue work or without the combination of two modalities, it was unlikely that she would have gotten better any time soon. The result, however, was rewarding. It took roughly three months to unwind and undo three whiplashes, but today she presents pain free and has her life back. With her headaches under control, we could move on to her other pressing structural issues and address her severely pronated forearms, caused by her repetitive work, rotated hips, and presenting muscular tension in the lower extremities. The work was all based on what muscles work in groups and in paired opposition, passively shortening muscles, and positioning the head to assist in the efficient release of hypertonic tissues.

Bodywork does not have to be mysterious; it should be based on science, the structure of the client, and the art of applying techniques in a knowledgeable fashion. Success is at your fingertips.