“It is your body, your session, your outcome,” advises Rotenberger. “There’s a fine line between pain and discomfort, and it’s unique to the individual.” What’s more, deep pressure is not the same as deep tissue. It’s a common misconception, Rotenberger explains, and in reality, a therapist that is muscle-specific needs to exert little pressure to be effective.
In the summer of 2009, I attended the Science-Based Medicine conference and The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas: a huge gathering of skeptics, scientists, and critical thinkers. I was the only alternative health care professional at the conference that I know of. I introduced myself publicly to a couple hundred doctors and scientists as a “skeptical massage therapist.” They were delighted, and for the next four days, skeptics approached me regularly to say, “Hey, that was brave! But massage isn’t quackery, is it?”
Have you ever spent time in the sun during the summer time and felt so happy? That’s because the heat helps reduce anxiety through releasing stress in your brain and muscles. Find ways to warm up regularly and this will have a great effect on your anxiety problem. Use a sauna, go to the beach, dip in a hot tub or spend some time by the fireplace. The warmth will instantly boost your mood.
Beyonce, Blondie, or the Biebster, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If you’re in a public place (that isn’t the opera), just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females. Knight, W.E., Rickard, N.S. Monash University, Victoria, Australia. Journal of Music Therapy 2001;38(4):254-72.. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
Flushing. If massage can “improve” any tissue — unknown — one way it might do it is through simple hydraulics: physically pumping tissue fluids around, and/or stimulating the circulation of blood and lymph. I won’t get into the evidence about it here. Suffice it to say that it might be true, and if it’s true then it may not much matter if the process is uncomfortable. While gentler massage may feel pleasant and satisfying, it is possible that more biological benefits can only be achieved hydraulically — whether it’s comfortable or not. This is even more plausible because of trigger points: it’s likely that the tissue fluids of a trigger point are quite polluted with waste metabolites, and the need for flushing is greater, but it’s especially uncomfortable to squish those polluted patches of tissue.
1. Take Five. Meditation is a powerful, natural way to reduce stress. If you’ve never tried it, it can seem intimidating—or even a little hokey. It’s actually very easy, though, and it takes only a few minutes to help yourself chill out. Set a timer for five minutes in a quiet space, close your eyes, sit still, and simply take slow, deep breaths. To avoid letting it turn into five minutes of ruminating about your stress, focus on your breath. For example, try breathing in for four counts, holding your breath for seven counts, and then breathing out for eight counts.
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At certain times during the massage, you may feel some discomfort or even some pain as the massage therapist works on areas where there are adhesions or scar tissue. Pain isn't necessarily good, and it's not a sign that the massage will be effective. In fact, your body may tense up in response to pain, making it harder for the therapist to reach deeper muscles.
5. Emerging: the key in this final step is calmly reentering the world. Rather than just stopping this process and jumping back in, focus on going back to what you need to do with the same peace you might have when you wake up from a nice sleep. Just gently getting back into the flow of your day. This should keep your mind and body both staying in a more relaxed and positive state.
When you get off the table, your calves may be screaming at you, but don’t get upset and run home to your foam roller, says Denunzio. Soreness is normal and can even help reveal areas of weakness that should receive future attention. Within 48 hours, the tightness should dissipate, and if the massage was administered correctly, you may even feel like you’re in a new body.
In a typical massage therapy session, you undress or wear loose-fitting clothing. Undress only to the point that you're comfortable. You generally lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.
“Runners put so much effort into training, but very few athletes put effort into taking good care of body that helps them perform,” says Gammal, who recommends incorporating regular massage—even if it’s just a 30-minute session once a month—so as to prevent injuries and the overtraining of muscles. Scheduling mid-training appointments can also reveal places that are tight and places that should be addressed in post-workout stretching. “Massage isn’t a luxury, Gammal says. “It’s an investment.”
Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)
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Straightforward palpatory pareidolia. Pareidolia is a type of illusion or broken perception in which a vague or obscure stimulus — i.e. subtle textures under your skin — is perceived as if it was clear and distinct. Pareidolia is what makes naive Christians spot Jesus in a T-shirt stain, and why Percival Lowell thought he could see canals on Mars. BACK TO TEXT
My massage therapist has been doing massages for 30 years. He is really aggressive. I thought that I was going to die. The pain was so intense that I honestly feel that it was worse than having children. When the massage was complete, I felt relaxed. When I got home I felt exhausted, like I had been in a major accident. Truthfully I feel like crap. I ache from head to toe, what the heck is this? I feel absolutely horrible. I had a bath before bed and it did help somewhat. But this morning I still feel like hell …
This study is the source of a new massage myth that massage reduces inflammation. Inspired by the doubtful notion that “massage may relieve pain in injured muscle” after intense exercise, researchers looked for changes in the proteins that cells constantly make (“gene expression”). They compared muscle tissue samples with and without massage and concluded that “massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.” Massaged muscle was found to be producing different amounts of five protein related to inflammation and promoting the growth of mitochondria (cell power plants). It was an interesting, technically demanding, and worthwhile experiment, and it’s nifty that there was any difference in gene expression in massaged muscle.
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Medical Massage is a controversial term in the massage profession. Many use it to describe a specific technique. Others use it to describe a general category of massage and many methods such as deep tissue massage, myofascial release and triggerpoint therapy as well as osteopathic techniques, cranial-sacral techniques and many more can be used to work with various medical conditions.
There are dozens of lines of evidence showing that structural treatment concepts of all kinds have failed to deliver the goods over the decades (see the structuralism article). But one recent large study of massage — the big back pain one described above (Cherkin) — produced particularly clear evidence that structuralist-style massage does not work. (And yet again, there’s an entire other article covering this in greater detail: the remainder of this section is just a summary.)
AD 1150: Evidence of massage abortion, involving the application of pressure to the pregnant abdomen, can be found in one of the bas reliefs decorating the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It depicts a demon performing such an abortion upon a woman who has been sent to the underworld. This is the oldest known visual representation of abortion.
Lymphatic drainage is an interesting example of a specific massage technique, allegedly good for one thing and not much else: its purpose is to reduce swelling. By reputation, it’s the best treatment option for patients suffering from lymphoedema, a serious complication of mastectomy and other surgical procedures. But it’s also obscure, technical, and practiced by no more than a few hundred therapists globally. It’s not “massage therapy” per se; just a specialized tool that a tiny group of professionals specialize in, some of whom happen to be massage therapists. Oh, and bad news: there’s also recent evidence that it does not work,28 or not nearly as well as we’d like.29
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Before you can decide which massage style is best for you, you need to ask yourself a question. Do you simply want a massage for relaxation and stress control? Or do you need symptom relief or help with a certain health condition? Before booking a massage, let the therapist know what you're looking for and ask which style the therapist uses. Many use more than one style. Or the therapist may customize your massage, depending on your age, condition, or any special needs or goals you have.
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Ordinary massage is used in spas for relaxation. LA Sports Massage is a Sports Massage facility for athletes, not a spa. Sports Massage is detailed, focused, anatomically specific massage that targets and corrects your unique physical issues. We use a synergistic mix of Swedish, Shiatsu, Deep Tissue, Sports Massage, and much more. Whether you are a professional athlete nursing a chronic injury, a weekend warrior sore from overdoing it, or a mom with back pain from toting a toddler, Sports Massage can help you.
Headaches. Severe headaches and migraines are the second most common pain conditions in the U.S. (15 percent) according to the AAPM, and Everhart says that massage therapy can oftentimes help in these cases. The Migraine Relief Center (MRC) indicates that the reason this modality works is that it eases muscle spasms, improves blood flow and circulation, relieves tension, and increases relaxation. The MRC shares that it is also especially helpful when it comes to tension and vascular headaches.
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Deep tissue massage is a focused, therapeutic massage that targets muscle knots (also known as "adhesions") and specific problem areas in the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Using deliberate, slow strokes or friction across the grain of the muscle, the therapist addresses chronic tight or painful muscles, repetitive strain, postural problems, or injuries.
Good massage therapists are the ones with more training and a bigger toolkit. They do what they can with the tools they judge to be the most useful, and they candidly discuss risks, benefits, evidence, and controversies. They don’t just pay lip service to humility as a general principle of alternative medicine — they make it a centerpiece, recognizing that they really are not trained enough to know much.
For routine general health and well-being. Full body massage using pressure points with passive yoga stretching. No oil is used. At Suchada, we perform authentic traditional Thai massage the way it is practiced in Thailand. The massage is done on a mat with the client fully-clothed. In Thailand, a traditional Thai massage session last two hours. For your best experience, we recommend a 2 hour combination of a Thai massage and foot reflexology. $80/1hr. $115/1.5hr. $145/2hr.
The first thing to examine is if your lifestyle is interfering with your ability to relax. We all get stressed out now and again, but a bad work environment, fights at home, money problems, and even clutter around you can keep you constantly on "high alert." It's hard to relax when something's constantly nagging at you—whether it's at the back of your mind or you're well aware of the stressors.
The constipation claim is another good example of something that’s probably as clinically trivial as it is certain. Who the hell thinks, “I haven’t had a crap in days: I guess I’d better buy a professional massage!” (I might rub my own belly.) In ten years working as an RMT, I think I did that kind of abdominal massage maybe a half dozen times — demand for the service was rather low. I’ve been writing about the science of massage even longer, and this is literally the first time the word “constipation” has ever appeared on this website — because who cares?
Many students at my school were actually angry that things like therapeutic touch were even being taught. I recall some heated debates between skeptical students and more “open-minded” instructors and school officials. It may surprise you to hear that I was not one of the skeptics back in those days — it was only just starting for me then. BACK TO TEXT
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These myths barely scratch the surface: massage therapists say and believe many much more bizarre things, living up to their reputation for flakiness. Dozens of bizarre and hilarious example are compiled here: 💩 Massage Therapists Say: A compilation of more than 50 examples of the bizarre nonsense spoken by massage therapists with delusions of medical knowledge. Which is in turn just a small slice of the larger problem of “therapy babble” in (mostly) alternative healthcare.
In the US, licensure is the highest level of regulation and this restricts anyone without a license from practicing massage therapy or by calling themselves that protected title. Certification allows only those who meet certain educational criteria to use the protected title and registration only requires a listing of therapists who apply and meet an educational requirement. It is important to note that a massage therapist may be certified, but not licensed. Licensing requirements vary per state, and often require additional criteria be met in addition to attending an accredited massage therapy school and passing a required state specified exam (basically the certification requirements in many states). In the US, most certifications are locally based. However, as of March 2014, some states still do not require a license or a certification. However, this is thought to change eventually as more regulatory bodies governing the profession of massage are established in each state. Furthermore, some states allow license reciprocity where massage therapists who relocate can relatively easily obtain a license in their new state. Not all states provide this option.
Note that this study compares a more vigorous sports massage style with more common Swedish petrissage techniques. Vigorous massage did indeed show significantly increased circulation! However, this technique is rarely used — the vast majority of Registered Massage Therapists in British Columbia rarely treat their clients with vigorous sports massage techniques, yet they still have a habit of claiming that massage increases circulation.
Unfortunately, the results of this study were actually negative: the data showed that massage has no significant effect on gene expression in muscle cells. There are several major problems with the study: the sample size was extremely small; the number of changes they found was trivial (and dwarfed by what exercise causes); the size of the differences was barely statistically significant—and short-lived, too; they measured genetic “signals” and not actual results, and guessed about their meaning; and we already know from clinical trials that massage doesn’t work any miracles for soreness after exercise, so what is there for the data to “explain”? Despite all of these problems, the results were spun as an explanation for how massage works in general — in the paper itself, the abstract, the journal’s summary, the press release, and interviews. Consequently, the results have been widely reported and discussed as if it is now a scientific fact that massage actually does reduce pain and promote recovery, and the only question was “how?” It’s a debacle.
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"If you walk in the door decompressed, it gives you a jump-start for the rest of the evening," says productivity expert Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out ($15; amazon.com). Do you take public transportation home? Resist the siren call of email and try a meditation app, such as Insight Timer, Calm, or Stop, Breathe & Think (all free on iTunes and Google Play). "Call a friend or loved one, listen to music—any activity that breaks you out of your normal train of thought should help," says Morgenstern. "One client found it effective to set his relaxation intentions on his way home from work. He'd tell himself, 'I want to enjoy cooking with my partner and make sure so-and-so does homework, but I'll ask in a gentle way,' and so on."
Sports massage is a good option if you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle, such as what you may get from playing a sport. It’s also a good option if you’re prone to injuries because it can be used to help prevent sports injuries. You may also use sports massage to increase flexibility and performance. Additionally, sports massage can be used to relieve pain, anxiety, and muscle tension.
Recovery. Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.
Good pain. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the “instinctive” sense that the pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet” aching. The best good pain may be such a relief that “pain” isn’t even really the right word.
On the other hand, hands-on experience is valuable too, and anyone who’s had a good massage is certainly familiar with the seemingly magical way that a therapist can find the perfect spots and “good pain.” An inability to reliably find something does not mean it can’t be done. And the main reason no treatment has ever been proven effective is mostly a lack of good science on the subject — it’s just unknown.
Let go of guilt. Many religious and cultural beliefs instill the value of hard work very deeply. Over time, and increasingly so with the advent of smart technology that keeps us hyper-wired 24/7, many of us have come to believe that being "on-the-go" constantly is the only way to prove our value. Having an unrealistic interpretation of "hard work" will end up wearing you down. Hard work is giving your tasks the attention they deserve at the time they deserve, not letting it bleed into all hours of your day!
Tests of overall effectiveness (clinical trials) are not difficult to cook up in principle: just take a hundred people with a certain kind of problem, give some kind of reasonably appropriate massage to fifty of them, give a neutral treatment to the other fifty, record the results, and report them. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to detect what should be a reasonably strong effect — if those massaged 50 people aren’t better off, how good can massage be? A great deal more precision is required to answer exactly what kind of massage works how well for what — more on that in a moment — but in broad strokes, it’s not a difficult problem. Not in principle. BACK TO TEXT
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Like massages, chiropractic care can be beneficial for lowering pain and improving recovery. It’s also been shown to lower stress, headaches and more. One way that chiropractors help treat pain is by lowering mechanical compression and irritation of spinal joints, which can send nerve signals throughout the body that increase inflammation and irritation.