In massage school, I took a class called Commonly Encountered Conditions. As the name suggests, we learned about common issues that we would likely come across in our massage practices. We then learned strategies for dealing with the conditions. The instructor would frequently use the phrase, “Surround the Dragon” to describe his approach to pain conditions.
With the exception of the heart, no muscle works alone to perform its job. Most actions are performed by groups of muscles such as the hip flexors, adductors or lateral rotators. With the primary movers, each action has secondary movers and stabilizer muscles that work together to create movement. If a runner comes to me and complains of hamstring pain, I might be tempted to just focus on the hamstrings. But using the “Surround the Dragon” approach, I am also going to work the glutes as they too are involved in hip extension. Then I will work on the tensor fascia latae and iliotibial band since they stabilize the knee during motion. I will likely address the adductors and lateral rotators of the hip.
Focusing only on the muscle that is in pain might seem efficient, but it is not likely to fully resolve the pain. When a muscle is weak, tight or otherwise compromised, the other muscles involved will take up the slack. They may work in ways that they aren’t specifically designed for. These compensations can further contribute to the pain. “Surrounding the Dragon” assures that all of the muscles involved in the movement are addressed and is a more comprehensive approach to pain relief.
At Connective Touch Therapeutic Massage, we believe that Surrounding the Dragon is the best way to slay your pain.