Training and certification standards for massage therapists are all over the map, and most practitioners have barely scratched the surface of musculoskeletal medicine. The profession is rife with pseudoscience like crank theories about the causes of pain, the myth that massage detoxifies, or that painfully “deep tissue” massage is needed to “release” tissues (which is stressful or even harmful for many patients).
Have you ever splashed cold water on your face and felt instantly refreshed? There’s a good reason for that because cold water helps with heart palpitations by making your system “reboot”. It’s a trick that you can apply a few times a day to keep yourself refreshed and stress-free and whenever you are feeling overwhelmed. It will also wake you up if you are too sleepy!
Yes, certainly it is a bit exaggerated. It could be a lot worse — hey, at least it’s got references! But it could be a lot better. Citing single cherry-picked studies to support broad treatment claims is weak sauce, even if the picks are good (and clearly not all of these are). The evidence and claims here that are stronger are also less important … and those that are more clinically important are also less sound.
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.
Combine these with the 4,146 active players in the NFL (National Football League) MLB (Major League Baseball), NBA (National Basketball Association), NHL (National Hockey League) and MLS (Major League Soccer); the 244 Olympic athletes on Team USA who competed in the 2018 Winter Games; and all of the “weekend warriors” who play sports on a more sporadic basis and this represents a huge number of individuals who rely on their bodies to consistently perform at higher levels.
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.
Injury: in the case of an injury, the recovery treatment will adapt to the healing process of the injury. At the beginning of an injury, massages are more frequent, short and focused on the area. For example, a sprained ankle may need light but bi-weekly work after the acute phase is over. As the injury recovers, massages are more intense, and less frequent. The ankle will receive deeper massages and deeper stretches as it heals. Once the injury is recovered, only one or two check-up massage sessions will be required.
“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.”
This energy-based, traditional Thai massage, focuses on feet and reflexology, up to the knees, using a wooden therapy stick, massage oil from Wat Po in Thailand and massage cream. reflexology points on the soles of the feet are associated with particular body organs. Pressure on specific points helps stimulate activities of the inner organs, promotes deep relaxation and improves blood circulation. $80/1hr. $115/1.5hr
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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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.”
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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The fact is, I do already do all those ideal things occasionally, but sometimes it feels as if being in the world is too much, and I need to disappear from it by losing myself in a screen. It is as if I crave that brain-dead feeling, even though I know it isn’t good for me. Having psychoanalytic psychotherapy is helping me to think about the reasons why I might do this – and for Morgan, therapy can be an important pathway out of being stuck in a screen-gazing rut, because it is somewhere a person is encouraged to use his or her mind. “The therapeutic space is the opposite of distraction – it’s concentration,” he says. “When people come into my consulting room, they often tell me it’s the first time they have ever felt they have had a space where they can’t run away from things.”
I agree with almost every detail of the article and wrote a letter of support to Dr. Barrett, which is published as an addendum to it. That said, the article does neglect some nice things that can be said about massage therapy, and it contains a few minor errors. But I applaud the intent and embrace and welcome most of the criticism. I wish it weren’t mostly true, but I believe that it is.
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.
Bio-medicine.org reports: “Nerve signals that tell the brain that we are being slowly stroked on the skin have their own specialised nerve fibres in the skin. The discovery may explain why touching the skin can relieve pain.” This discovery is important to touch therapies, of course. It strongly implies that neurological responses to touch have considerable complexity.
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Cancer. Used as a complement to traditional, Western medicine, massage can promote relaxation and reduce cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea, or depression, for example, or improve the function of your immune system. However, there are specific areas that a massage therapist should avoid in a cancer patient, as well as times when massage should be avoided altogether. Talk to your doctor before getting massage therapy if you have cancer.
This geeky basic neurology experiment produced a rough estimate of the density of nerve endings in human glabrous (hairless) skin: about 6000 per square centimetre, so a whole hand probably contains about as many as the maximum capacity of the largest stadiums in the world. They measured an average nerve diametre of about 3 thousandths of a millimetre.
The recipient wears loose, comfortable clothing and lies on a mat or firm mattress on the floor. In Thailand, a dozen or so subjects may be receiving massage simultaneously in one large room. The true ancient style of the massage requires that the massage be performed solo with just the giver and receiver. The receiver will be positioned in a variety of yoga-like positions during the course of the massage, that is also combined with deep static and rhythmic pressures.
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Trigger points may respond to massage, and that is certainly my impression from three decades of rubbing my own trigger points and trying to help other people with theirs. It’s also what legions of massage therapists believe. But don’t ask science for confirmation — it’s playing hard-to-get here. I get dorky in detail about the science of trigger point massage in the trigger points tutorial, but here’s the bottom line …
Wiltshire et al subjected 12 people to intense hand-gripping exercises to boost blood levels of lactic acid and other waste products of muscle physiology. Then they measured those substances with and without the subjects receiving basic sports massage. Their data showed that massage significantly “impairs lactic acid and hydrogen ion removal from muscle following strenuous exercise by mechanically impeding blood flow.”
What do the best studies say? One of the best, a Canadian experiment conducted by Michele Preyde way back in 2000,40 was a test of “comprehensive massage therapy” as delivered by well-trained Ontario therapists,41 in six sessions in a month for 25 cases of sub-acute low back pain (non-chronic, but not brand new cases either). This treatment regimen was compared to massage alone, remedial exercise and posture education alone, or some useless laser therapy. Massage alone had “considerable benefit,” just enough to be considered clinically significant; adding exercise prescriptions (and posture education, but that probably wasn’t a difference maker) improved on those results even more, pushing them comfortably into clinical significance.
Speaking to Grunfeld and Andrew, and hearing their advice (see ) on how to identify different occupations that might relax and reinvigorate me, I begin to feel optimistic. I think back to how I liked to pass the time when I was young; the quiet times sitting reading a book, the rowdier times baking with friends. I resolve to make more time to do the adult versions of these things over the next year – then realise I am making excuses. If I could redirect the evenings I am already wasting on screens, that would be a good start.
The physiological effects are a bit of a moot point: if the pressure doesn’t suit you, you’re not likely to continue with the therapy. The exception is the patient who is willing to put up with intense pain long enough to find out if there appears to be a therapeutic effect afterwards, which there may be. But that judgement call is often made without much knowledge of whether or not the pain is really justified. BACK TO TEXT
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.
Are you stressed or unhappy? Do you need to calm down? Training your mind to relax isn't difficult and can help you feel rested and prepared at any time. To relax your mind, consider meditating, practicing healthier habits like exercise, engaging in relaxing activities like listening to music, and avoiding or reducing common stress triggers like social media. When you find methods that work for you, cultivate and practice them often. In time, you'll be able to relax quicker and easily.
And yet some medical benefits are plausible despite the lack of evidence. For instance, many apparently successful treatments may be due to the effects of pressure on “muscle knots,” which are a likely factor in many common pain problems, but poorly understood (and difficult to treat). And regardless, the effects on mood and mental health are so profound that patients can’t really lose — it’s a valuable service whether it “works” for pain or not.
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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For almost everyone, after some period of time, our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) kicks in, which brings all of these physiological changes back down to normal. Your heart rate returns to baseline, your blood pressure lowers, digestion starts again, the stress hormones are metabolized, your breathing slows and deepens, and your muscles relax. When this completes, you are back to a pleasant, slower, and more in-control state.
Commit to a regular enjoyable activity, like a monthly racquetball game or cooking class, with your partner or friends. "You're more likely to follow through on a commitment to someone else than to yourself," notes Schulte. "It leaves you no choice but to relax!" One of the rare times when I truly unwind: my bimonthly girls' game night, where we play Scattergories, snack extensively, and laugh our heads off. But thanks to all this inspiration, I no longer have to wait weeks to relax for real.
Forty-three states, the District of Columbia and five Canadian provinces currently offer some type of credential to professionals in the massage and bodywork field—usually licensure, certification or registration. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia require some type of licensing for massage therapists. In the US, 39 states use the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork's certification program as a basis for granting licenses either by rule or statute. The National Board grants the designation Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB). There are two tests available and one can become certified through a portfolio process with equivalent training and experience. Between 10% and 20% of towns or counties regulate the profession. The National Certification offered by the NCBTMB does not mean that someone can practice massage in any state. These local regulations can range from prohibition on opposite sex massage, fingerprinting and venereal checks from a doctor, to prohibition on house calls because of concern regarding sale of sexual services.