Everyone I know, including myself, is busy and distracted on an infinite loop. It’s a curious conundrum, considering we’re all armed with more than enough information on how to de-stress. But the “surprising benefits” of exercise, meditation and work-life balance, documented ad nauseam, are beginning to feel like drawn-out humblebrags. Sometimes, they just seem insurmountable. And try as we might to convince ourselves that binge-watching TV helps, I don’t know anyone who feels refreshed after two+ episodes.
You’re wonderful and you deserve some special care! Treat yourself every now and then to a massage, mani-pedicure, or haircut. Take some time off for yourself to write or read poetry, take photographs or simply wander around. Go on picnics, watch movies or visit the beach. You need this type of fun activities to balance your work and daily responsibilities. Actively seek your peace of mind.
So presenting lactic acid as some kind of metabolic bogeyman that massage can purge from the flesh is wrong on many levels. This is another nail in the coffin of the daft notion that massage “detoxifies,” and yet another reason to be suspicious of any therapist who talks about “detoxification” — as is sometimes unethically done to rationalize adverse effects of therapy that actually have other causes, including potentially serious conditions.69
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.
“I drew habitually growing up and minored in art in college, but when I graduated, my practice began to slip away. Because I’m rusty now, I get a sort of performance anxiety about the whole thing, so I try to do it in as casual a manner as possible. I typically call a friend who I’ve been neglecting or put music on, get out a pad and doodle. (A really satisfying pen works best. It has to feel like velvety-butter.) I let my pen do all sorts of weird things: make strange shapes, draw people I don’t know who don’t have hands. There are no rules, no expectations of perfection, no product to produce. And when I’m done with it, I’m done with it. It’s very un-precious and so, so relaxing.”
Know when to cut ties. If you value your relationships, as do most people, it can be challenging to realize that there are people who are just too toxic or too needy to keep in your inner circle because they sap your energy and stress you constantly. Sometimes it's best to let go, provided you do so after thinking it through carefully. Avoid being judgmental, hurtful, or blunt; just move on as you need to. The following articles might help you work out what could be wrong with a relationship that's getting you down, and what to do about it:
A short but clear, compelling, and strong critique of cranial osteopathy. As an osteopath himself, Dr. Hartman’s opinion carries considerable weight, and he writes well. He concludes that techniques based on the assumptions of cranial osteopathy “should be dropped from all academic curricula; insurance companies should stop paying for them; and patients should invest their time, money, and health elsewhere.”
Of course, back in the day when people were mostly hunters and gatherers, these physiological changes would help our ancestors run from predators or environmental hazards. And maybe back then, people didn’t know how to relax. Maybe they weren’t really supposed to. But today, people aren’t asked to regularly respond to such great threats, and knowing how to relax may be a better modern survival tactic than a ready stress response.
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Find the right massage therapist. Look for a therapist who specifically identifies the massage type you’re interested in as part of their practice and background. If necessary, look for someone trained to treat a particular condition, such as sports injuries, fibromyalgia, arthritis, or pregnancy. Also check if the therapist is licensed or certified according to state requirements.
It is frequently asserted that massage therapy (MT) reduces cortisol levels, and that this mechanism is the cause of MT benefits including relief from anxiety, depression, and pain, but reviews of MT research are not in agreement on the existence or magnitude of such a cortisol reduction effect, or the likelihood that it plays such a causative role. A definitive quantitative review of MT's effect on cortisol would be of value to MT research and practice.
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So what should runners book instead? Anna Gammal, a massage therapist who works with elite runners at the Boston Marathon each year and also massaged athletes at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, recommends either a sports massage (i.e. targeted therapeutic treatment for the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes) or a myofascial release massage (i.e. the application of gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissue restrictions). Both specifically target muscle release and will help improve flexibility, reduce pain and increase range of motion.
Continual improvement is the reason you train in the dead of winter, hammer up the hills on the bike, do track work, and train in the pouring rain. Well, that is the same reason you should get a good sports massage. After a massage you'll feel lighter, more powerful and more flexible, and all those nagging aches and pains can be addressed, helping to reduce the likelihood of injury.
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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“I rearrange all of the art and furniture and items in my apartment and usually do some sort of cleaning out of something (books, clothes, kitchen cabinets) in the process. My brain enters this hyper-relaxed state where I’m actively considering space and meaning and emotion but in a non-literal language that makes my mind kind of…hum? Does that make sense? And then I blink and it’s been four hours and I have a few missed calls and emails but I don’t care because I feel wonderful.”
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.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
In sports massage, the massage therapist generally concentrates on a specific problem area that you present, usually associated with some sort of sports activity, such as running, tennis, or golf. The most important thing with sports massage is that you find a specially-trained massage therapist who has mastery of a wide range of techniques and knows when to use them. In the past, many spas used to put sports massage on their menu as a way to appeal to men. As spas have become more sophisticated, however, they realize they shouldn't list sports massage unless they have some therapists with specialized training.
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Thai massage, long considered a medical treatment in Thailand, the therapist puts you through a series of stretches that cover the entire body. (That’s why it’s often called lazy man’s yoga.) You lie on a floor mat or on a table wide enough to accommodate the therapist, and you wear loose-fitting clothing (often supplied by the spa), because there’s no way a sheet can stay put during these moves—the therapist might kneel on the back of your legs and pull your arms to arch your back and open your chest, or place her shoulder under your heel to lift your leg and stretch your hamstring. Thai massage also includes deep-pressure point work to stimulate the sen, or the body’s energy pathways.