Therapeutic massage is expensive but popular and pleasant, with obvious subjective value, and proven benefit for anxiety and depression … but no other clear biological or medical effects. Most notably, the evidence that massage can help back and neck pain is sketchy, and there is no reason to believe that massage can help much with any other common musculoskeletal pain problem.
BC 500 Jīvaka Komarabhācca, also known as Shivago Komarpaj, the founder of Traditional Thai massage (Nuad Boran) and Thai medicine. According to the Pāli Buddhist Canon, Jivaka was Shakyamuni Buddha's physician. He codified a healing system that combines acupressure, reflexology, and assisted yoga postures. Traditional Thai massage is generally based on a combination of Indian and Chinese traditions of medicine. Jivaka is known today as "Father Doctor" in Thailand.
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The owner of the school collected (and sold) crystals, and used them for healing purposes. I ended up amassing quite a collection of my own, using them to do chakra balances on people, performing psychic surgery with them, and any number of woo procedures. I also purchased magnetic pads for my massage table. I attended homeopathy workshops. I got heavily into essential oils, which I still love and use today—with the caveat that while I think many of them are useful as folk remedies for various simple ailments, I’m not going to advise someone with cancer that they can cure it with an oil, which unbelievably, I notice massage therapists doing all the time—and worse—on social media.
Sheets and wrappings of connective tissue called fascia are considered an exciting frontier in massage therapy. Supposedly fascia can get tight and needs to be “released.” However, key examples of research either fail to support fascial therapy or actually undermine it — for instance, fascia is too tough to actually change. Fascia enthusiasm seems to be a fad. For more information, see Does Fascia Matter? A detailed critical analysis of the clinical relevance of fascia science and fascia properties. BACK TO TEXT
Over time, deep-tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue in the body. It does this by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage to improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected area. Scar tissue is often associated with ongoing pain and stiffness, so deep-tissue massage can improve these symptoms. Massage therapy is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery.
A traditional Swedish massage involves the whole body. You will begin on either your back or your stomach and flip over at the halfway point. If you have an area of particular concern, such as a tight neck, you can ask your therapist to spend more time in this area. Depending on your preferences, you can ask your massage therapist to use light, medium, or firm pressure.
In any case, the whole notion that you want or need to get rid of lactic acid in the first place is just bogus. Lactic acid is not the cause of muscle pain at any time except the immediate aftermath of intense exercise (and probably not even then). Research has shown that muscle fatigue and the “burn” that you feel as you exercise intensely is probably caused by calcium physiology, not an accumulation of lactic acid.67 In particular, lactic acid does not cause soreness the day after exercise — yet another myth, and a particularly bad one that will just not die!68
Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating. Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating.
This involves relaxing your muscles in a two-step process. Identify each muscle group, starting with your toes and moving up. First tense the muscle or muscle group. Then release and relax them. Notice how you feel as you release the tension. You can do this with your fists, neck, shoulder and pretty much any other muscle you are able to control. But progressively moving up the body, one muscle group at a time, will be most effective.
Unsurprisingly, there are almost no comments questioning or challenging anything about the image. Julie Onofrio chimed in with one of the only genuine criticisms: “a few of the things on there are not correct — massage has not been proven to increase endorphins or decrease cortisol.” Agreed: most of the infographer features common scientific myths about massage.
Massage is not a detox treatment. If anything, it’s the opposite! Post-massage soreness and malaise (PMSM) is probably caused by mild rhabdomyolysis (“rhabdo”). True rhabdo is a medical emergency caused by muscle crush injuries. But milder stresses cause milder rhabdo — even just intense exercise can do it. And massage! We know this from a good formal case study, several informal ones, common exertional rhabdo, and the similarities between PMSM and ordinary exercise soreness. A rhabdo cocktail of waste metabolites and by-products of tissue damage is probably why we feel cruddy after any intense biological stress or trauma — but they can’t be “flushed” away by massage (or by drinking water). See Poisoned by Massage: Rather than being DE-toxifying, deep tissue massage can probably cause a slightly toxic situation in the body. BACK TO TEXT
Does massage therapy “work”? What do massage therapists say that they can do for people and their pain, and is there any scientific evidence to support those claims? Massage is a popular treatment for low back pain, neck pain, and tension headaches — can it actually treat them, or does it just pleasantly distract patients and maybe take the edge off? In this article, I examine massage therapy in the light of science — not “objectively,” but fairly.1 I go out of my way to be critical of my former profession — I consider it an ethical duty. Health professionals must be self-critical and critical of each other: that is how we improve.2 And, alas, massage therapists are guilty of an astonishing amount of bullshit.
Unfortunately, such massage therapists are quite rare. Most are poorly trained and uncertified. Most work in spas or resorts and on cruise ships, doing treatments that are infamously fluffy and skin deep, with little therapeutic value other than the comfort of a quiet hour of touching (even though many patients find skin-deep massage to be more annoying than anything else). Most of these therapists are earnest and view themselves as medical semi-professionals, despite their comparative lack of training. It’s actually inappropriate to call them “therapists” at all, and in some places (here) it’s actually illegal — they have to use terms like “bodyworker” or “masseuse.”
In this unique healing system of Thai Yoga Massage, also called Nuad Boran, the practitioner guides the client through a series of yoga postures, while palming and thumbing along the body’s energy (‘Sen’) lines and pressure points. Together these actions result in a comprehensive full body treatment that relieves muscular tension, improves circulation, boosts the immune system and balances the body energetically.
Sports massage was developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. However, contrary to what the name suggests, you don't have to be an athlete to benefit from sports massage. Sports massage emphasizes prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons and can be beneficial for people with injuries, chronic pain or restricted range of motion.
Get up off your chair and walk around the desk. Take a quick but deliberate walk to the water cooler and drink a sip of water. This will help increase circulation and get your body moving more during the day. It can be calming to break up the tension that can come from sitting in one place especially since we spend so much time in front of screens!
Like your closet, your mind can fill up with unnecessary and unwanted stuff, so it’s important to get things straight and organized. Practice mindfulness by focusing your attention on the present. Slow down, breathe to a slow count of 5, make a to-do list, keep a journal, take a walk, or immerse yourself in a favorite pastime. Do less and focus on only one thing at a time as much as possible. Delegate when you can, ask for help if you need it.
It’s worth devoting a bit more attention to this particularly classic controversy in massage therapy: that massage can aid muscle health and recovery from exercise by some means, usuallu described as flushing metabolic wastes from your muscles. Other “toxins” and unspecified metabolic wastes are often lumped into the myth, but lactic acid is by far the most famous and likely to get mentioned, so that’s what I’ll focus on here.
Researchers compared the effects of garden-variety relaxation massage — classic Swedish — with allegedly more advanced “structural” massage, consisting of an assortment of typical treatment methods. The results were the same, showing clearly that a typical selection of structuralist massage techniques was not one stitch more effective than simple relaxation massage.
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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According to the Neuromuscular Therapy Center, NMT is one type of deep massage technique that focuses on applying manual therapy to soft tissue with “quasi-static pressure” in order to stimulate skeletal striated muscle. (17) In addition to massaging a painful or inflamed muscle, the area around the affected muscle that normally supports it is also massaged in order to release tension. NMT therapists often focus on several factors that can add to muscle or tissue dysfunctions, including joint pathologies, postural positioning, disruptive habits of use, nutritional components, emotional well-being, allergies and neurotoxins.
This may be the first ever scientific test of friction massage for tendinitis. In 1989 (when I was graduating from high school!), “No clinical trials, either controlled or uncontrolled, reporting the effectiveness of friction massage could be found.” From the conclusion: “This study does not support the notion that either deep friction massage or phonophoresis are superior to ultrasound in the treatment of lateral epicondylitis at the elbow.”
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Damapong, P., Kanchanakhan, N., Eungpinichpong, W., Putthapitak, P., & Damapong, P. (2015, September 15). A randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of court-type traditional Thai massage versus amitriptyline in patients with chronic tension-type headache. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587431/
Some research has shown that massage therapy can be effective during pregnancy due to its anxiety-lowering effects, and women who receive massages before and during labor tend to experience decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Results from one study found that women who received massages prior to and during labor had significantly less pain, plus their labors were on average three hours shorter and required less need for medication.
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Think about how easy it is for a baby or small child to fall asleep. We're born with the instinct to relax and sleep when our bodies or minds need a break. Over the years, it becomes necessary to control and even suppress these natural urges to rest, because we must remain alert as we attend school, learn professions, go to work, or care for a family. Many people spend years conditioning themselves to perform well despite feelings of tiredness. While no one would argue that suppressing tiredness can be a necessary skill, it can impair our ability to actually "let go" and relax when we do find the time.
Even if you do yoga, meditate and perform other stress-reducing activities, calm may allude you. Instead of getting a prescription for Xanax, try a natural supplement to relax. There are several herbs you can take in a nice cup of tea that could give you the sedative effect you need during times of hardship. Examples of such herbs are Chamomile, Valerian, and Kava. Generally, one teaspoon of dried herbs or three tablespoons of fresh herb to one cup of water is a beneficial amount. Most herbs should steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
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.
You can usually choose which type of massage you’d like to receive, and you and your partner can each get a different type of massage depending on your preference and the offerings at the spa. Your partner and you will be on tables side-by-side, and you’ll each have your own massage therapist working on your body. You can talk during the massage if you wish.
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.”
Provided for mommies-to-be from 14 weeks to labor. Pre-natal massages are a wonderful way to relieve the aches and pains and stresses of pregnancy. Given in a safe and comfortable side-lying position, this session allows you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of every day life and focuses on YOU. *High risk pregnancies will require a doctor's release.
Expect to work hard breaking into the sports environment. Get additional training and develop your expertise in orthopedic massage and functional assessment, clinical massage, myofascial work and stretching. Start by getting involved with your AMTA chapters’ Sports Massage Team; this provides excellent hands-on experience and each event looks great on a resume.
Massage-StLouis.com [Internet]. Sanvito A. How Does Massage Work?; 2016 December 31 [cited 17 Feb 28]. While the skin is indeed “the surface of the brain,” there are of course many sensory receptors in deep tissues as well. Massage therapy mainly interacts with the nervous system via the skin, which is extremely richly innervated, and the importance of this is often underestimated or discounted entirely … but it’s not limited to that. For instance, I’ve always particularly loved having my joints moved passively, which creates a flood of proprioception — movement/position sensation — that my brain didn’t initiate, which feels weird in a delicious way. BACK TO TEXT
Adequate recovery is also a major factor in avoiding the over-training syndrome. Over-training is characterized by irritability, apathy, altered appetite, increased frequency of injury, increased resting heart rate, and/or insomnia. It occurs when the body is not allowed to recover adequately between bouts of heavy exercise. Therapeutic massage helps you avoid over-training by facilitating recovery through general relaxation, and its other physiological effects.
This review is somewhat novel in that it includes some Chinese research, but it doesn’t really help. The introduction curiously boasts that “traditional Chinese massage is one of the most ancient massage therapies,” but there is not enough distinctive about Chinese massage that makes it worthy of any focus, and massage is ancient in every culture. This weird, prominently placed statement is a red flag: biased interpretation ahead! (And only one study of traditional Chinese massage made it passed the selection criteria anyway.)
“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.”
I think it is more that they are circumspect than pessimistic. Speaking as a scientist, we are very careful to guard against declaring a finding if there is even a small risk of it being a false positive. We never want to say ‘we’ve found something’ and later have it turn out we were wrong when more data comes in. So, I think they are hewing to scientific norms in this regard, and I do not fault them for that; it is important to be careful in science.