You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.

Having a massage every few weeks is a great way to reduce muscle tension and get pampered at the same time. Massage helps relax the mind and body, and a skilled massage therapist can find your problem spots and get them under control. Often combined with aromatherapy and meditation, a massage is a wonderful way to melt your stress away and can help with some forms of chronic pain.
Here comes the sun—and some stress relief. If it’s a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy folks Randomized trial of physical exercise alone or combined with bright light on mood and health-related quality of life. Partonen, T., Leppamaki, S., Hurme, J., et al. Department of Psychiatry, University of Helsinki, Finland. Psychological Medicine 1998;28(6):1359-64..
Inflammation caused by chronic stress and muscle tension can lead to worsened overall health, longer recovery time, reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure. Studies have found that massage therapy can help lower cortisol levels and even boost production of the hormone called oxytocin, which relaxes the body and has soothing effects. (7) Oxytocin is the primary hormone responsible for sustaining social bonds in humans and increasing motivation for cooperative behaviors, which is why it’s often called the “cuddle hormone” and known to be released during hugs, birth, social bonding and from touch.

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Continuing education is important to stay abreast of the evolving field of sports medicine. In addition, sports massage therapists must have a strong understanding of the demands that sports put on the body, both physically and mentally. Because I also train and race, I feel better able to understand body mechanics—including common injuries and performance goals—which gives me the opportunity to communicate and share my experience as well as my skills to help athletes reach their
Job’s body: a handbook for bodywork, a book by Deane Juhan. amazon.com If you can manage the density of the language, Job’s Body is thick with creative insights into physiology and healing. Perhaps too many of them, and perhaps too creative — but very stimulating! Juhan tries to explain why bodyworkers often seem so uncannily effective. This is a job that certainly needed doing. In trying to explain bodywork, Job’s Body is a philosophical introduction to the science of the human body — a physiology textbook with a heart. Many chapters are devoted to pure science — just barely accessible to the hard-reading layperson, and mainly offering perspective for the health care professional. Still more chapters are devoted to pure philosophy. Juhan frequently dares to ask (and answer) the hardest questions in the health sciences: why and so what? I took a workshop with Juhan many years later. I’m sorry to say that he seemed cocky and jaded. My main impression was that he was bored and had drunk to much of his own Kool-Aid. And the introductory chapters of this book do a better job of explaining some of the possible subtle benefits of massage therapy than anything else I’ve ever read. Read an excerpt.

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
Massage developed alongside athletics in both Ancient China and Ancient Greece. Taoist priests developed massage in concert with their Kung Fu gymnastic movements, while Ancient Greek Olympians used a specific type of trainer ("aleiptes")[27] who would rub their muscles with oil. Pehr Ling's introduction to massage also came about directly as a result of his study of gymnastic movements.
Research shows that firmer massages with more pressure can result in a significant reduction in arthritis pain compared to lighter massages. Lighter massage tends to be arousing (not relaxing) because often the heart rate goes up. However, with moderate pressure, heart rate usually goes down, and this stimulates relaxation and reduced tension. (13)
Minty, fruity, or bubble-gum flavor, a stick of gum is a surprisingly quick and easy way to beat stress. Just a few minutes of chewing can actually reduce anxiety and lower cortisol levels Chewing gum alleviates negative mood and reduces cortisol during acute laboratory psychological stress. Scholey, A., Haskell, C., Robertson, B., et al. NICM Collaborative Centre for the Study of Natural Medicines and Neurocognition, Brain Sciences Institute, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia. Physiology & Behavior 2009;22(7):304-12..

Sports massage has antecedents in earlier periods of history. The ancient Greeks and Romans combined massage and exercise in their athletic training. Various Asian cultures also developed forms of massage for dancers and for students of martial arts . As a formal practice, however, sports massage began in the Soviet Union and Communist bloc countries in the 1960s. Soviet teams were the first to have a massage therapist travel with them and work on their athletes on a regular and ongoing basis. Through sports and cultural exchanges, the concept of sports massage moved to Europe and the United States in the 1970s. Over time the benefits of sports massage became accepted, and sports massage became a part of the training regimen, first of professional athletes, then of college and amateur athletes. Today sports massage is recognized as a specialty by the American Massage Therapy Association.
Massage used in the medical field includes decongestive therapy used for lymphedema[10] which can be used in conjunction with the treatment of breast cancer. Light massage is also used in pain management and palliative care. Carotid sinus massage is used to diagnose carotid sinus syncope and is sometimes useful for differentiating supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) from ventricular tachycardia. It, like the valsalva maneuver, is a therapy for SVT.[52] However, it is less effective than management of SVT with medications.[53]
You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. 
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.
There are a few “medical” massage therapists out there with some training in orthopedics and rehabilitation. My education in massage therapy here in British Columbia, Canada, was three years long — the longest massage therapy training program in the world. There are also a few other places with two-year programs. A massage therapist with this level of education is certainly the kind that patients should seek out if they want massage as a treatment.
For others, the notion of being in touch with their own needs and desires is totally alien, says Andrew. People who grew up in a family environment that centred around the needs of a sibling or a parent might have spent their whole lives never being asked about what they wanted to do. “It might genuinely be something they’ve never considered before,” she says. For those people, identifying something they might find enjoyably relaxing, and pursuing it, can be a huge, life-changing shift. “It can be quite dramatic.”

Meditation is often seen as a great way to relax, and many studies back up that idea. In a meta-analysis looking at several studies of relaxation training in people with anxiety, the observed effects of meditation were greater than those observed for other intentional relaxation techniques, such as autogenic training (a process that involves making your body feel heavy and warm) and applied relaxation. Other studies have also outlined its effect as an anti-anxiety and antidepressant method.

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Scientific studies indicate that meditation contributes tremendously to well-being, general health, and longevity. How to Relax is a unique gift for those who want a simple guide to achieving deep relaxation, controlling stress, and renewing mental freshness and clarity, appropriate for those practicing in any spiritual tradition, whether seasoned practitioners or new to meditations.

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.


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
Thai massage has been practiced in America since the 1990s when Westerners began practicing it. Thai massage is more commonly found than it used to be at American spas, but you can't find it everywhere for two reasons. First, the spa needs a room with a large, padded mat in order to offer Thai massage. It's easiest if the room is always set up for Thai massage, and yet it is more of a specialty request. It just makes more economic sense to have the room set up with a table for a Swedish massage.
The therapist might use Swedish massage to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids, and trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles), and stretching to increase the range of motion. Other techniques could include myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage and orthopedic assessment. The therapist should also have a good foundation in hydrotherapy modalities including cryotherapy and thermotherapy, which can help with recovery, repair and healing processes.
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 …

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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.
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.
Whether it is the actual goal of therapy, or just an intriguing side effect, the sensations of massage can change our sense of ourselves, how it feels to be in our own skin, and perhaps bump us out of some other sensory rut82 — and that, in turn, may give us some leverage on our emotional ruts. The sensory experience may have complex effects on emotions and cognition. And personal growth and emotional maturation probably have some clinical relevance to recovery and healing (see Pain Relief from Personal Growth: Treating tough pain problems with the pursuit of emotional intelligence, life balance, and peacefulness).

When something’s really bothering you, it can help to share your feelings with a pal. In fact, more talkative folks tend to be happier in general Anxiety, affect, and activity in teenagers: monitoring daily life with electronic diaries. Henker, B., Whalen, C.K., Jamner, L.D., et al. Department of Psychology, University of Califronia, Los Angeles, CA. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry;2002(41)6:660-70.. So vent to a coworker or call a close family member and spill.

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.
It is important to recognise the difference between good stress and bad stress, life-changing events like getting married, becoming a parent, moving house, starting a new job or starting school can all be stressful events; but these are ultimately good for you – the stress is usually short-lived.  Bad and more dangerous stress is long-term background stress which can be caused by any number of factors including: frustration, overwork, failure or perceived failure as well as more specific life circumstances and illnesses.
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.
In a world where the only thing news sites are non-stop talking about are crime, corruption, economic breakdown, and the end of the world,  you realize that exposing yourself to this on a daily basis is the same as planting seeds of fear and anxiousness. Try and limit the time that you spend watching the news or browsing on social media, and focus your time and energy on things that will help you get forward and appreciate who you really are without you having to worry about the future.
Relaxation is also a uniquely individual activity. Napping or just doing nothing might be your idea of relaxation, but this amount of inactivity might drive someone else crazy. Others may relax by participating in sports or undertaking physical challenges, but some people would find these activities stressful. Whatever your idea of relaxation, the following tips can help you re-train and regain some of those lost relaxation skills:
One risk is clearly neurological and complex: some people are basically sitting ducks for the well-documented and nasty phenomenon of “central sensitization,” and indeed may already be in pain and seeking help because of it. A strong massage can severely aggravate that situation, with long term and extremely unfortunate consequences. It’s rare, but it happens. The typical clinical scenario here is a gung-ho under-trained therapist over-treating someone in, say, the early stages of fibromyalgia. Bad, bad, bad.

Your brain listens to you. So talk to yourself even though you may not feel completely convinced on what you are talking about.  Like affirmations, you can trick the brain into believing positive things and what works for you. This ‘fake it until you make it’ tactic takes a while to get used to, but could prove to be very beneficial in the long run.
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?
When you are looking for massage therapy, be sure to check which type of massage a practitioner can provide. Match that with the benefits you hope to get from the massage session. You may want to chat with several different practitioners to find the one who understands your needs and is used to working with people with similar goals. Be sure also to discuss any allergies, such as to scents or plant oils, so your massage will be relaxing and beneficial without that concern.
These involved a lot of muscle testing, and I’m not talking about orthopedic assessments. I’m talking about asking your arms (that was the terminology) if you should eat this or that food, or hire this or that lawyer, or marry this or that person. My husband and I both ended up taking the advanced program in that, which was 120 hours of learning to read people’s faces and body language, and giving and receiving a lot of what was referred to as “emotional stress diffusions.”
So obviously (duh) this infographic was designed to score medical credibility points for massage, and research was cherry-picked to support that goal, and there wasn’t any chance that any discouraging words or science was going to make the cut! But it something like this will get applause from almost everyone who sees it, because people love to love massage, because massage is a lovely experience for all kinds of reasons.

Pre-event massage is given shortly before an athlete competes. It consists mainly of brisk effleurage to stimulate and warm the muscles and petrissage to help muscles move fluidly and to reduce muscle tension. Effleurage is generally a relaxing stroke , but when done briskly it is stimulating. As the massage progresses, the pressure increases as the massage therapist uses percussive strokes and cupping to stimulate the muscles to contract and flex. The part of the body being massaged varies from sport to sport, although leg and back muscles are common targets for this type of massage.


Most other evidence about massage benefits is indirect and/or so weak it’s meaningless. For instance, there are a few scraps of evidence — not nearly enough, but better than nothing — that rubbing and stretching soft tissue can reduce joint pain and stiffness.8 (Note that stiffness is a symptom, a sensation of discomfort with movement that may or may not involve any actually limited movement. See Why Do Muscles Feel Stiff and Tight?.)
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.)
I’ve worked in a variety of exciting environments, including the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the Greece Paralympic Summer Games and on the road with the U.S. National Powerlifting Team. Plus, I have worked with collegiate, ABL and WNBA athletes. Currently, I travel with the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) as part of the sports science and medicine team. In my private clinic, I specialize in orthopedic massage.
Again, deep and controlled slow breathing can be an effective way to maximize heart rate and blood pressure fluctuation and maintain autonomic function (the control system that regulates body functions like heart rate, digestion, urination, and even arousal). And believe it or not, slow breathing has been associated with increased longevity among the general population.4
Thank you so much for your article The Pressure Question in Massage Therapy. I just read it all. I went for a sports massage two weeks ago as I was recommended to have one as it was suggested it might help with tight calves, a side effect of some other injuries I have. I’ve been for sports massages many, many times before over the years. This one was one of the most painful experiences of my life — when I got home I was almost sick and felt in shock. My right achilles tendon was raging and it’s been bad ever since. It hurt so much when it was done (like someone was sticking knives in) and I kept asking if it was meant to hurt. I wish I’d just stopped the session or objected but I didn’t. It used to be a bad injury that affected me walking for about 6 months so I’m just devastated about this. I can hardly bear to put shoes on and its all this time on. I know there are good practitioners out there but experiences like this just make me want to stay away. I wish I’d gone to a “gentle” one.

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