This light, gentle form of massage seeks to release deeply ingrained tensions, promoting a sense of relaxation and freedom. It appears to be especially helpful for people with chronic neuromuscular pain, including back problems and sciatica, and it has also been advocated for stress-related conditions, high blood pressure, strokes, migraine, and asthma. Proponents say that it can benefit patients with polio, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy as well.
How the Treatments Are Done
Also known as Tragerwork or the Trager Approach, this form of therapy has two components: bodywork conducted by the therapist and a set of movement exercises to be pursued between treatments.
Trager bodywork sessions are quite different from a run-of-the-mill massage. There’s no oil, and no rubbing. Instead, the therapist enters a meditative state called “hook up,” the better to sense areas of tension in the body. By rhythmically stretching tense muscles and rocking stiff joints, the therapist attempts to induce a feeling of lightness and freedom, inviting the patient to completely surrender muscular control. When he encounters an especially tense area, he relaxes his pressure instead of bearing down as he would during Rolfing or Hellerwork. For many, the net effect is an invigorating feeling of light, supple release.
The follow-up exercises, dubbed “mentastics” (for mental gymnastics), are designed to promote effortless motion. They range from simply shaking or swinging the hands or the feet to executing free, dancelike movements that enhance relaxation.
Treatment Time: A typical session lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
Treatment Frequency: There is no fixed schedule.
What Treatment Hopes to Accomplish
Like many other forms of bodywork, Trager Integration seeks to release the deeply rooted physical tensions that can build up over years of mental and physical trauma. It is one of the many outgrowths of the holistic medicine craze that swept California in the 1970s. Developed by Milton Trager, a physical therapist turned physician, it combines principles of physical therapy with precepts borrowed from Transcendental Meditation.
Trager therapists believe that the deeply relaxed feelings the technique induces can resonate through the nervous system, ultimately benefiting tissues and organs deep within the body. At least one clinical study has confirmed that the technique can indeed relieve pain. Another suggests possible benefits for people with lung problems. However, any other specific therapeutic effects have yet to be verified.
Who Should Avoid This Therapy?
The gentle massage and exercise of Trager Integration is unlikely to be harmful to anyone. Nevertheless, be sure to alert the practitioner if you have the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis or a tendency to clotting in the circulatory system (thrombosis).
What Side Effects May Occur?
No side effects are known.
How to Choose a Therapist
For authentic Tragerwork, you’ll need a therapist trained and certified by the Trager Institute. This organization maintains a directory of its graduates, and can be contacted at the address below (see “Resources”).
Currently there are nearly 1,000 certified therapists in practice worldwide.
When Should Treatment Stop?
Duration of treatment depends on the severity of your problem. Some athletes use regular sessions as a means of increasing their stamina.
See a Conventional Doctor If…
Remember that Trager therapists are typically not physicians. You should see a doctor for diagnosis of your problem before beginning therapy–and whenever your symptoms get worse.