The term "bodywork" probably brings to mind as many varied images and specific definitions as people who have used it! I define it as any therapeutic method that attempts to cure, mitigate, or lessen any uncomfortable condition by interacting, in some systematic way, with the client's body or some aspect of it. Techniques include influencing the body's energetic, electric or magnetic properties, without some kind of physical bodywork necessarily being an integral part of the therapy.

All professional athletes in any sport requiring physical exertion employs bodywork on a regular basis. The big guns in any endurance sport have their own bodyworker who travels with them to meets, major events, etc. Read an interview with any Tour de France participant, and I guarantee that if the interviewer asks about the aspects of their training, they'll bring up their masseur as an extremely important part of the team. Similarly, any national running teams in the world championships, the Olympics, etc. have at least one, usually several, professional bodyworkers as team members.

    There are many variations on the general theme of "bodywork"; I'll mention around the top six or eight which are commonly used for runners, triathletes, and other endurance athletes. At the end of this section, I'll provide several links to massage associations and similar organizations.

Some Common Bodywork Modalities

There are literally dozens of bodywork variations; I'm just going to mentioned to most popular modes, with no personal bias (well, not much ;-).

  • Swedish/Esalen - the type of bodywork most closely associated with "massage", this is not too deep, not painful, and provides an overall feeling of well-being. Very nurturing.
  • Myofascial Therapy (aka Myofascial Trigger Point or Myofascial Release Therapy) - a type of safe, low load stretch that releases tightness and pain throughout the body caused by myofascial pain syndrome, which describes chronic muscle pain that is worse in certain areas known as trigger points.
  • Ortho-Bionomy® - an extremely gentle, highly effective therapy developed by an osteopath, in which the body is gently placed in positions of great comfort coupled with gentle pressure-instigated propioceptive feedback. Great!
  • Reflexology - also known as zone therapy, this is a therapeutic system using pressure at points on the feet, hands, or head. From Wikipedia: "It is based on what reflexologists claim to be a system of zones and reflex areas that they say reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body."
  • Craniosacral Therapy - a therapy with a small number of fierce advocates, in which a session "involves the therapist placing their hands on the patient, which allows them to 'tune into the craniosacral rhythm'." Its results are highly subjective and are widely disputed in the medical community.
  • Feldenkrais Therapy - "Feldenkrais focuses on function rather than form and does not have a goal of attaining an ideal body type or physical construction. The Feldenkrais Method is intended to improve the sensibility, awareness and quality of movement through one's own body feedback rather than teaching predefined or static forms."
  • Acupuncture - With a history over 5000 years old, acupuncture has been refined and successfully used on innumerable patients, effecting important, long-lasting results with minimal or no side effects.
  • Acupressure - Presented as an analog to acupuncture but using pressure of the practitioner's thumb(s) to stimulate the qi meridians. Capable of achieving useful results, but is generally slower and less effective than acupuncture.