Trager therapy is a technique that integrates gentle massage and non-strenuous exercises intended to help the body's muscles relax. Through these methods, Trager therapists work to help their patients achieve a state of body awareness, which is known as "psychophysical integration." Trager therapy emphasizes self-awareness of muscles, joints, and physical postures. The goal of the treatments are to assist patients in changing unconscious habits of posture that cause many of the symptoms they are experiencing. Trager theory is based on the idea that accumulated tension is slowly dissipated as body awareness increases.
Trager therapy is performed on the premise that muscle abnormalities or tensions caused by stress or physical injury may restrict the ability of muscles to expand and contract. When muscles cannot expand and contract as well as they once did, muscles may begin to remain fixed in one position, and the patient may not be able to move as freely. The patient's mind may also begin to believe that moving freely is no longer possible, and this belief may be an obstacle in the patient's recovery. For instance, a person with stressful circumstances, such as depression or injuries from a car accident, may accumulate tension in their muscles. The accumulated tension may not be obvious at first, but over time the patient may not be able to, for instance, turn their head to the side as far as was once possible. In the philosophy of Trager therapy, healing this restriction in movement may come from helping the patient's mind realize that it is able to soothe the tension in the neck muscles and let go of this tightness.
Trager therapy was invented when the young Milton Trager, who overcame a childhood spinal deformity through athletics, helped his boxing coach feel better through massage. This experience inspired the young man to give massage to his father and other individuals in his life with disabilities. Many of them experienced recoveries, and Milton developed Trager therapy through a process of trial and error.
Trager therapy is most commonly advocated for individuals with stress, psychosomatic conditions, and/or neuromuscular conditions, such as back pain. Advocates claim that Trager therapy is helpful to these individuals because the accumulated tension in their muscles may increase the intensity and pain of these types of conditions. Trager therapy is aimed at helping patients remove muscle tension, so that the pain and restriction in movement dissipates.
Trager therapy is difficult to study in a laboratory setting because treatments are based on changing states of consciousness, perceptions of pain, and subjective states of muscle tension, which are difficult to reproduce or prove.
Trager therapy may be a successful form of treatment for individuals who have not benefited from more passive forms of bodywork therapies, such as chiropractic treatment. Every session of Trager therapy includes time for the patient to practice movements that may be less difficult after a massage. This is in contrast to other forms of bodywork, where normally the patient lies passively and receives the treatment and is not instructed to practice movements as a part of the session. Today, the Trager Institute promotes Trager therapy and monitors the certification of its practitioners.

Related Terms

Mentastics, psychophysical integration, Trager therapy, tragerwork.