The benefits of a sports massage are numerous: improved flexibility, reduced risk of injury, and a boosted circulatory system, just to name a few. But bodywork isn’t a one-size-fits all tool, and there are certain things to consider before booking an appointment. Here, three runner-trusted massage therapists impart important pre-massage knowledge.
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
Before booking an appointment, ask questions about the therapist’s education and experience, like “What is your training?” “How many years have you been practicing?” and “Do you work frequently with runners?”, suggests Gammal. Seek referrals if possible, and ensure s/he is a licensed massage therapist. Rotenberger recommends a massage therapist specifically trained in orthopedic treatment and assessment, as s/he will know when to refer you to another healthcare professional, in the case that you’re experiencing chronic pain and discomfort not fixable via massage. You can find a reputable practitioner via www.orthomassage.net or www.NeuroMuscular-Reprogramming.com.
‘To Write Love on Her Arms’ was the name or the article that Jamie Tworkowski wrote for his friend Renee Yohe who was suffering with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. The article was about the five days that he spent with Renee before she entered a treatment center. What started as a simple attempt to help someone realize that there’s more to life and it’s possible to recover has become a great non-profit organization.
Both sides of this research question are highly problematic: fibromyalgia is hard to diagnose or define, and massage is hard to study. Even using official diagnostic criteria, which changed significantly in 2010, there’s a lot of wiggle room. (As Fred Wolfe has put it, “One doesn’t either have fibromyalgia or not have it. There is a gradual transition from the mild to the severe. The point at which we classify an individual as having fibromyalgia is arbitrary, but reasonable.”) The types of massage reviewed here were generally vague and all over the map, from the straightforward (Swedish massage) to trendy-but-meaningless “connective tissue massage” (the idea of isolating or even emphasizing connective tissue in massage is a biological absurdity, like trying to eat the gristle out of a steak without masticating anything else) to rank quackery like “therapeutic touch” (which is literally not massage at all and roughly on par with believing in magic). What a mess.
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
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 …
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).
AD 1779: Frenchman Pierre-Martial Cibot publishes ‘Notice du Cong-fou des Bonzes Tao-see' also known as "The Cong-Fou of the Tao-Tse", a French language summary of medical techniques used by Taoist priests. According to Joseph Needhan, Cibot's work "was intended to present the physicists and physicians of Europe with a sketch of a system of medical gymnastics which they might like to adopt—or if they found it at fault they might be stimulated to invent something better. This work has long been regarded as of cardinal importance in the history of physiotherapy because it almost certainly influenced the Swedish founder of the modern phase of the art, Per Hendrik Ling. Cibot had studied at least one Chinese book, but also got much from a Christian neophyte who had become expert in the subject before his conversion."
“Resonate” in this context means that physical pain may transmogrify into emotional pain and vice versa. Emotional and physical pain readily create and reinforce each other. I assume that catharsis is inherently valuable, and I think that’s a fairly safe assumption. I discuss the relationship between pain and emotions in from many angles in several articles, like Pain is Weird, Pain Relief from Personal Growth, The Anatomy of Vitality, Why Do We Get Sick?, The Art of Bioenergetic Breathing, Insomnia Until it Hurts, and Anxiety & Chronic Pain. Whether catharsis is medically helpful for pain obviously depends on many factors, but it’s certainly possible — just as they can reinforce each other, relief from one may also be coupled to relief from the other. BACK TO TEXT
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
In New Zealand, massage is unregulated. There are two levels of registration with Massage New Zealand, the professional body for massage therapists within New Zealand, although neither of these levels are government recognised. Registration at the Certified Massage Therapist level denotes competency in the practice of relaxation massage. Registration at the Remedial massage therapist denotes competency in the practice of remedial or orthopedic massage. Both levels of registration are defined by agreed minimum competencies and minimum hours.
Scientists theorize that things in our environment compete for the brain's attention. Essentially, the brain can only focus on a certain amount of input at once. Focusing on sensations other than tension and pain, or even introducing new sensations, can "close the gate" to pain. The pain doesn't go away, it just drops into the background. De-stress and counteract the downward pain spiral with these eight relaxation tips.
Traction is a great example — pulling on the spine. Often used by massage therapists to treat low-back pain and neck pain, it might be an effective technique for a few patients, but I wouldn’t count on it, or advise anyone to spend much money on it. Like many popular therapies, the evidence is a mess.30 The absence of conclusive evidence is significant: if traction worked well, it probably would have shown up clearly by now. If traction works at all, it’s certainly not reliable. I discuss traction in considerable detail in both my neck pain and back pain tutorials.
3. Slowing: this third step will now bring your attention to what is happening inside you, particularly your breathing and heart rate. Although there are a lot of ways we can learn to change the way our body responds in any given moment, the easiest is to control our breathing. There are dozens of breathing techniques, but the one I have found to be the easiest to use is called "4-7-8 Breathing". It works like this:
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If scientifically unsupportable practices are surprisingly common medical massage therapists, they are close to universal among barely-trained and untrained bodyworkers. Many of them aspire to greater skill, but usually don’t do so by studying orthopedics and physical therapy — a project that could occupy anyone for a lifetime — but instead by increasing their repertoire of certifications in proprietary hands-on techniques, most of which are either silly and/or medically unimportant (i.e. pleasant and harmless, but producing no significant therapeutic effect for any important health problem — hot stone massage would be a good example of this).
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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Manual therapists routinely claim that their services are much safer and more effective than drug therapies. Yet this data pretty clearly shows that the difference is really not great. Depending on how you look at it, drugs are only a little worse in some ways, or maybe a little better in other ways. But no matter how you slice it, 20-40% is a pretty unpleasant rate of harm — especially at $60–120/hour!
I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.
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Kicking back in front of one screen or another does have its place, says Andrew – but it depends how you do it. “Sometimes people describe not being engaged in what they’re looking at – totally zoning out, not knowing what they’ve done for the last half-hour,” she says. “You can view this almost as dissociation, periods of time when your mind is so exhausted and overwhelmed it takes itself out of the situation. That’s unlikely to be nourishing in any way.” Maybe that is why, after I have spent an evening staring emptily at Twitter, or dropping off in front of the TV – less Netflix and chill, more Netflix and nap – I wake up feeling as if I have eaten a load of junk food. I have confused feeling brain-dead with feeling relaxed.
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I doubt that I personally know any skeptical massage therapists who aren’t already there, if they want to be, but I may have readers who qualify. Such skeptics are obviously a rarity in massage therapy, a profession notorious for attracting people with New Age and fringe science beliefs. The kind of people who would happily pay through the nose for tickets to see Deepak Chopra talk and think Mercola.com is a good source of health care information.
Our body and mind need sleep in order to rest and refresh. Sleep deprivation is one of the primary causes of anxiety. An average person requires eight hours of sleep every day. When your brain is sleep deprived, it may not be able to respond to emotional events appropriately. Go to bed early and make sure that you get seven to nine hours of sleep every night to maintain a healthy mind.
Meditation has been known to mankind for centuries and has been practiced throughout the world. When you start meditating, it’s important not to resist your thoughts. Let them move through your mind. Visualize them then ‘surf’ through your emotions in a calm and collected manner. Imagine those emotions floating away as you remain calm and centered. You can read more on how to successfully utilize meditative mindfulness techniques right here.
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.”
Jason DeAntonis is an award-winning Bay Area artist, known for his sumi ink illustrations, and his fine carpentry and custom furniture. He has also worked in sculpture, costume design, glass blowing, painting, printmaking, and book illustration. His work has appeared in Mindfulness in the Garden, How to Sit, How to Eat, How to Walk, How to Love, and How to Relax. He lives in Berkeley, California.