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Massage Therapy: Bridging the Gap Between Cause and Effect

For my entire career, this is something I have been constantly trying to find. The illusive bridge; the real answers to healing that “bridge the gap” between hands-on techniques and real pain management. This searching has turned into something like mission for me now.

Throughout my time at the massage table, working with a variety of bodies, I can tell you that the techniques and concepts that I have discovered that work the greatest with trying to bridge the gap between cause and effect for pain management are not techniques. They are governing principles about how the body heals itself, regardless of the technique applied.

I call these healing applications “Universal Principles”. These principles are simple and profound at the same time and they are the truth of what I have observed that repeatedly work for successful pain management and healing.

I promise you, it takes practice to really understand them because if you are like me seeing is believing. I have to see and feel the change (and so does my client) to really understand it and then allow it to be true.


There is Always an Answer to Pain


Pain is not an unknown entity. It is not something that just happens to us with no explanation (effect). It is my/your job to figure out the explanation (cause). Sometimes, the answer doesn’t make sense but if it works than that is the answer, regardless of what you or I think.

However, the power in this principle is that I KNOW it exists. It has proven itself to my hands over and over (especially when I get out of the way and let it prove itself). Just because I don’t understand the connection, or I am having a hard time finding the relationship between cause and effect doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Cause is always there. My job is to figure out cause and the first thing to finding cause is to believe that it exists.

There is a natural reaction to this belief. Because I believe it exists, it also allows me to believe there is an answer. This opens my mind and hands to be willing to find how it exists. This is one of the secrets to my odd, but effective treatment techniques that I teach people.


Believe me when I tell you that the bridges that link together cause and effect are not what I ever thought they would be. It is much more profound and very rooted in basic science principles. However, being open and willing to follow that bridge is what has created the unique pain management that I now teach to other hands-on therapists.


Pain Cannot Be Truly Healed with More Pain


This is a HUGE concept, but I will break it down to 2 small bite-sized concepts. Those are:

  1. The outcome of healing pain with pain.

  2. The outcome of healing pain with finding the cause.

The outcome of healing pain with more pain means that the application used to help heal an area of pain was in the realm of therapeutic inflammation (Deep tissue; surgery). The application used was directly applied to the effect; the pain.

Typically, more inflammation occurs to an area already inflamed. That is actually the purpose behind why you treat it directly. The body will respond by going into an acute phase of healing: swelling, heat and inflammation – and more pain.

The body will be aggressive at healing that area of pain. Again, that is the purpose; the intent of addressing the effect. The outcome will be 1 of 3 things:

  1. Stop hurting and get better.

  2. Stop hurting for a while and then the client will slowly start to experience pain again in the same location.

  3. Stop hurting in that location, but somewhere else starts to hurt in an equal quantity; the pain moved.

Only one of those outcomes is what we truly want for our clients. In an effort to get the first outcome for each person, we repeat the process on every “body”. The reality is that this works some of the time and sometimes it doesn’t.

The hard part of this principle is distinguishing the reason why it only works on some and not on others. Another hard part of this concept is to know what to do different to help those that the direct application doesn’t work on.

That brings us to the second outcome. To help a body heal from treating the cause means that you stop being direct and begin to treat the body “indirectly”.

When you begin to explore reasons for pain, the cause is typically many layers deep into the structure of the body. It is a part of the long-term history of the body and the pain the client is experiencing has manifested as the result of a combination of things all working together (or not working together) to create the problem you are working with. All these answers combined create the cause. When treated together, you begin to change the effect in a very natural, sustainable way.

I will say that approaching the body with this understanding creates one ultimate issue for you as practitioner. It is just plain harder to understand this way of application.

It’s so much easier to just apply therapeutic inflammation than figure out the cause. This is a gap I work with all the time for practitioners to accept with natural healing. Some therapists really want to understand, and others really struggle that this huge complicated “mess of thought” is the reality of cause and effect pain treatments.

While the pain-relief effect is temporary for many clients, it’s so much easier as a therapist to just stick your elbow into an area of pain, work with the body for an hour, and get paid.

It is just as much of a mental application as a physical application to figure out why someone is hurting in their shoulder and the answer is coming from their foot. However, that is the walk you will take to truly bridge the gap between cause and effect for effective, and possibly, real pain management.


Healing is an Exchange of Energy – Nothing More

When I talk of energy, I am not talking about the wonderful, woo-woo part of massage and healing.


I am referencing the body to a battery; the positive and negative charges and attributes. To get the juice to make things run or move from the battery, it has to be balance positively and negatively. Energy in general isn’t accessible until things are balanced to create the right reaction (see, I told you basic science).

For true healing in the cause and effect principles, pain (negative) is only truly balanced by the absence of pain (positive). Pain (negative) is not a balanced energy by more pain (negative).

Once the balance or transition occurs from negative to positive, only then can you have the juice, or the energy, to heal in the body. This is what I call “healing energy” and my #1 goal in working with people is to create as much healing energy as possible in one session.

I also know that once I create it, the body will distribute it where it needs. I actually need to step back and trust this process, allowing it to do “its thing”. At this point, I become more of a facilitator than a therapist and it is hard to not control this process. Time has taught me this lesson and the older I become the more I allow it to guide me. It has taken a lot of failure to finally understand this principle.

Treating pain with more pain can work, but only if there is an excess of energy somewhere in the body to deal with it to keep things balanced. If an imbalance is made through massage or any other application, in its infinite wisdom and natural drive towards homeostasis, the body will pull the positive energy it out of some tissue, organ, or process to keep the overall body balanced. The overall effect is balance, but it is still “draining” on the person.


When your client gets up from a bodywork session with a fatigue headache that wasn’t present before treatment, this is what the body is telling you has occurred. This is balance with a price tag. This takes us back to first universal principle where you may change the pain in one area, only to have something else go wrong somewhere else in the body.

It is all a cycle. How do you effectively stop the downward spiral to this cycle? Simple, you must find and treat the cause. Again, in the wisdom of the body, you can do this using the pain, the effect, to guide you to the cause. That is what the pain has truly been trying to tell you all along.

The Bridge

For the last 20 years, I have patiently (and impatiently – remember, balance in ALL things) attempted to listen to the body and what it has to tell me. I have written down what I have found to be repeatable from person to person and that is what I teach. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes people look at me like I am way out in left field. I don’t mind because what all this is really about is what works to help ease suffering and pain.

If what we apply for pain truly heals and the pain ceases to exists, what else matters to the person healing? Trust me, it’s not my name or the name of this or that technique or how much you paid for a new kind of training. Easing pain and suffering on a universal level is much more profound than even I understand or maybe can understand. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters are that you and I can make a difference.

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