The Trager approach, which is also called Trager work or psychophysical integration therapy, is an approach to bodywork that endeavors to address both psychological and physical pain. Practitioners of the approach believe psychological pain, old injuries, poor posture, and an accumulated lifetime of minor and serious traumas can lead to chronic physical and emotional pain.
What Is the Trager Approach?
Developed by medical doctor Milton Trager, Trager work uses a combination of supported movement and guided physical exercises. Trager originally used his technique with patients recovering from polio and later expanded the technique to help people with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and other physiological conditions. Practitioners now use Trager work for a wide range of conditions, including chronic pain.
What Is a Trager Work Session Like?
During a Trager session, the client remains clothed. Depending upon the area being treated, the client might wear swimwear, but loose-fitting clothing is generally advised. Sessions may last from an hour to an hour and a half. No lotions or oils are used in this form of therapy.
Practitioners divide Trager work into two components:
- Passive work, which is also called tablework, involves the client lying on a table while the practitioner uses gentle movements to release tension.
- Active work, or mentastics, during which the provider guides the client through mental and physical exercises to alleviate pain and distress. Mentastics, which is built around the premise that pain and tension derive from nervous system dysfunction, aims to help the body move more freely while experiencing less pain by slowly retraining the nervous system.
During the passive stage of treatment, the client lies on a padded table while the practitioner moves their body in ways it naturally moves. The goal is for the movements to feel effortless, so no movements or stretches are forced.
During the active portion of treatment, the practitioner guides the client through a range of simple movements. In most cases, practitioners encourage clients to continue performing mentastics at home.
Benefits of Trager Therapy
Practitioners view their work as a form of rehabilitation that has the potential to help correct movement patterns that may become harmful, thus helping clients achieve long-lasting good health. The effects are cumulative, so people who experience benefit from the Trager approach should experience continued improvements over time. Because clients can practice mentastics on their own at home, this approach to massage allows individuals to build upon the progress they make in therapy sessions.
Some research suggests Trager therapy can improve health, particularly in people with movement disorders. For example, a 2002 study found that Trager work could reduce muscle rigidity in people with Parkinson’s. The study explored the use of gentle rocking motions for 20 minutes on 30 patients, who had an overall reduction in muscle rigidity of 36% immediately after treatment.
Trager Therapy Precautions
Trager therapy is safe for most people, though it does require the client to lie on a table. The movements used in this approach are gentle, so they won’t trigger pain in old injuries. People who have a history of blood clots, cardiovascular disease, or who have recently had surgery should consult a physician before trying Trager therapy. In general, it is considered a good idea to receive approval from one’s primary care physician before receiving an alternative or complementary treatment.
Trager therapists complete training through Trager International, which requires completion of 136 hours of training, and an additional 24 hours of mentastics training. Practitioners must also complete fieldwork.
- Duval, C., Lafontaine, D., Hebert, J., Leroux, A., Panisset, M., & Boucher, J. P. (2002). The effect of Trager therapy on the level of evoked stretch responses in patients with Parkinson’s disease and rigidity. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 25(7), 455-464. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12214187
- Trager work, Trager approach. (2016, July 25). Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/wellness-therapies/trager-work-trager-approach
- What is the Trager approach? (2005). Retrieved from http://www.trager.com/approach.html
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