Written By Ashley Culp, RMT, BA

What is a “light touch modality”? And does it even work anyway? Don’t you need a lot of pressure and pain to get the “knots” out?

These are some questions I’ve heard before from folks who are unsure about light touch, and who are unfamiliar with what light touch modalities have to offer.
Subtlety I think is a word I go to frequently when I talk about light touch and what it means; however it’s effects are so much more broad, dynamic, and expansive than one would think of such a subtle technique. I always find it so interesting how such small movements can sometimes have the biggest effects.

Craniosacral Therapy

The Craniosacral rhythm is something that is very slow, quiet, rhythmic, and when functioning optimally, is quite expansive in it’s amplitude (how far it moves).

The rhythm itself is postulated to be the emptying and filling of the cerebrospinal fluid in the spinal column – this occurs 6-12 cycles every minute. The Craniosacral rhythm can be affected by medication, illness, inflammation, nicotine, trauma, etc… and the idea behind it is that the rhythm can be brought back into balance with the practitioners hands by: feeling this rhythm, slowing it, stopping it, and bringing it into what it called a “still point”. It is at this point that healing and restoration of the nervous system can occur – this brings the nervous system into a parasympathetic state of relaxation and safety, showing the body how to relax, and bringing the body into stillness.
Craniosacral Therapy can only be done as a light touch modality. It engages the fascial tissues, and clients usually have a sense of feeling “lighter” when getting up off the treatment table after a session. The effects themselves are wide reaching because they impact the nervous systems, but will vary depending on the person because of the experiences they’ve gone through (injuries, trauma, medications, etc.) as it depends on the symptoms that they come in with.


Reiki is an energy healing technique that promotes relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety as a light touch modality. It is safe to be used in conjunction with other conventional medical and therapeutic regimens recommended by your MD. Reiki promotes relaxation, stress reduction and symptom relief to improve overall health and well-being by releasing tension throughout the body.

Reiki derived the term from the Japanese words rei, meaning “universal,” and ki, which refers to the vital life force energy that flows through all living things. Originating in centuries ago in Japan, Reiki is now used all over the world, including in hospitals and hospices, to complement other forms of health treatments.

I use Reiki as a hands-on light touch modality with Massage Therapy to bring about a sense of relaxation and well-being. In the context of Massage Therapy, Reiki helps to relax the fascia, and other tissues throughout the body through the movement of Reiki Energy through the Chakra system – energy work is outside my scope of practice as a Registered Massage Therapist, but using Reiki as a hands on method to bring about relaxation and a sense of well-being, to decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and to decrease the stress response are all important aspects of treatment scope in Massage Therapy. If this is something you are curious about, please feel free to email me to ask me any questions you may have. It’s definitely not a treatment for everyone.

Reiki Massage Therapy

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is another light touch modality, but engages only the skin – not the fascial structures like CST. MLD deals with the lymphatics which are located just below the dermis, so if you press too hard, you end up compressing them! So you have to work as lightly as possible.
This is a very, very relaxing technique, and has been shown to improve sleep quality, and quantity, as well as improve overall sleep hygiene.

MLD might be light but it is a powerful technique, helping the body to process more lymph, more quickly – so a sluggish lymphatic system can get a bit of a boost, or one that needs a bit of an extra push (lets say, just before a surgical procedure) can get the help it needs when it will be out and recovering.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage can help with edema, water retention, many skin conditions, bruising, pain, inflammation… the list goes on. So having an optimally functioning lymphatic system helps the entire body’s overall wellbeing, filters out waste, dead cells, dust particles, and toxins, and can improve out health and how we feel. This is how MLD can help YOU feel better in your body.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage Technique

Visceral Manipulation

The viscera is the fascia of the abdominal and pelvic areas. It can get adhesions just the same as any other layer of fascia within the body and can be affected by injury, trauma, pregnancy, surgery, IBS… the list goes on.

Visceral Manipulation is a light touch modality that manipulates abdominal structures to release adhesions, allowing the organs to move freely in their position, and release muscle tension that can cause pain and other discomfort. Pregnancy and laparoscopic surgeries are two of the most common reasons for seeking visceral manipulation (aside from abdominal discomfort) as a means to get the tissues and organs moving if they are adhered to surrounding structures.

The organs have been shown to have their own particular movement, rhythm, and direction of pull. Some organs are held by suspensory ligaments, like the uterus and the round ligament, and some are not, like the kidneys – both need attention to make sure they are sitting optimally within their abdominal or pelvic as the fascial displacement can have wide-reaching effects on the nervous system.

Visceral Manipulation can also help to down-regulate the nervous system to help increase parasympathetic response and relaxation.

If this treatment seems like the right thing for you, or if you want to learn more, please feel free to contact me for more information, or to book an appointment at ashleyculprmt.com.

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