Massage – This can’t be safe?

A couple of days ago I came across a unique style of massage therapy in this incredible video. This video was most probably taken in some part of Western India shows an old man in a dhoti (Indian wrap around for men) sitting beside a client (a man) lying in prone position. The old man is using a metal hammer and mallet to vigorously whack the hell out of what seems like this man’s spine and then around his hips. When done he asks his client to stand up and touch his toes which the client does and all is well. You can watch it here too.

The reaction on our FB page from students and others was of often of shock. Understandably so but did you know that there is a similar style in Thailand called Toksen. The only difference is that it uses a wooden hammer and a mallet and is often gentler (depends on the practitioner). Here is a compilation of Toksen therapist from across Thailand.

So whats the secret and is there any merit in what this person is doing.

So first things first — the man in the video is kind of performing a small sleight of hand. Actually, he is not hammering the mallet into the spine. He is actually placing the mallet along the spine i.e. along the left and right channel and creating a strong vibration on the soft tissue rather than making any contact with the bone. If he had made contact with the bone that would have been very dangerous especially at the force that he is applying.

Secondly, the edge of his hand actually is protecting the mallet from going deeper into the client’s body and only allows the vibration of the strike to pass through into the tissue but not its impact.

Why does Vibration work?

Vibratory stimulus helps to break adhesions in the connective tissue and helps change its tonus. These adhesions are the result of postural or physiological changes in the body. By breaking down /softening these adhesions the blood vessels and nerve that pass through this connective tissue gets more space and results in improved flow and function. This also helps improve the function of the tissue that is being supplied by these blood vessels/nerves.

So the final answer is this may work but at the force that is being used, I would only go with a very experienced practitioner. The old man in the original video looks definitely the part.

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