This article thoroughly discusses massage therapy in a way that is quite unusual in the profession: a skeptical, critical-thinking sort of way. This is normal in modern medicine, where critical self-appraisal is a formal part of the professional culture.85 And yet there are some skeptical massage therapists! We do exist! For instance, the Skeptical Massage Therapists Facebook group has quickly grown into the best discussion group available — although there’s not much competition! — for massage therapists who also happen to be scientific skeptics. Founder and moderator Brantley Moate:
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.
Massage detoxifies or flushes lactic acid from your muscles. Detoxification myths are among the most embarrassing of all massage myths. “Detoxification” sounds good and means little or nothing. There are such things as toxins in the world, but not only is massage unable to “flush” any that matter from the body, it likely produces a mildly toxic state known as rhabdomyolysis.58 But if you challenge massage therapists to name a “toxin” that they are “flushing,” most will name lactic acid, not rhabdomyolysis. And again, the truth is ironically the reverse of to the myth: evidence has actually shown that massage interferes with lactic acid elimination. See the lactic acid section below.

If you are dealing with a serious injury, and don’t have a diagnosis, definitely see a sports doctor. “Massage therapists do not diagnose,” says Denunzio. “It’s not part of our discipline.” And while a therapist can identify and attempt to alleviate any tightness and inflammation in the body, if a problem area doesn’t feel significantly better three days post-massage, you should likely consult a sports doctor then, as well. Once a diagnosis is given, your massage therapist can work with that information and use massage as a helpful tool in recovery.
Bad pain. Bad pain comes with no obvious, immediate benefits. If there is anything good about it, there is no way to tell from the sensation at the time. Bad pains are usually sharp, burning, or hot. Such pain is usually caused by excessive but harmless pressure. As bad as it feels, it probably won’t hurt you — maybe a little bruising — but there’s also a good chance that it won’t be therapeutic either. The big question about bad pain is whether or not it is ever justified.
Sports massage is a form of bodywork geared toward participants in athletics. It is used to help prevent injuries, to prepare the body for athletic activity and maintain it in optimal condition, and to help athletes recover from workouts and injuries. Sports massage has three basic forms: pre-event massage, post-event massage, and maintenance massage.

5. Emerging: the key in this final step is calmly reentering the world. Rather than just stopping this process and jumping back in, focus on going back to what you need to do with the same peace you might have when you wake up from a nice sleep. Just gently getting back into the flow of your day. This should keep your mind and body both staying in a more relaxed and positive state.
In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize.

During most full-body massages the expectation is you’ll be undressed. Your massage therapist will ask you to undress for your massage while they wait outside. It’s up to you whether or not to keep your underwear on. Your massage therapist will drape a sheet over your body, which they will pull back and adjust as they work their way around. You will be covered most of the time.


Proprioceptive studies are much more abundant than massage and proprioception combined, yet researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact mechanisms and pathways involved to get a fuller understanding.[94] Proprioception may be very helpful in rehabilitation, though this is a fairly unknown characteristic of proprioception, and "current exercises aimed at 'improving proprioception' have not been demonstrated to achieve that goal".[95] Up until this point, very little has been studied looking into the effects of massage on proprioception. Some researchers believe "documenting what happens under the skin, bioelectrically and biochemically, will be enabled by newer, non-invasive technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and continuous plasma sampling".[93]
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.
Sports massage can be an interesting career choice for therapists who want to do it full time. Professional sports teams often have massage therapists on staff to keep athletes' bodies working at their very best. It helps to have a keen interest in anatomy and physiology, advanced training and experience in sports massage, an interest in sports, and a desire to work with athletes.
Accept that sleep is a very important part of life. During sleep, your mind continues learning in ways that are not possible during waking hours. Sleep restores and refreshes your body in myriad ways that cannot happen when you're awake. Do not be tempted to devalue the worth of sleep. Moreover, the alleged ability of some people to thrive on four hours sleep per night is the exception, not the rule — most of us need the six to eight hour sleep cycle for full restoration. Dreaming is an essential part of sleep; you can explore your inner fantasy and have many experiences that you never encounter in the waking world.

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Deep tissue technique uses very little to no lubricant so that the muscles can be hooked or grabbed, thereby stretching and lengthening them, and to separate adhered muscle compartments. Strokes will be considerably slower and possibly shorter as the therapist waits for a slow release of tension. Some areas may be skipped so more time can be spent on specific areas of need. Doing this provides better alignment of the muscles and less restriction in the joints, thereby improving their movement and function. It is a massage in which the primary goal is less about general relaxation and more about promoting change in the actual structure of the body.

Hepatic hematoma. Hepatic hematoma is a painful liver condition, which The New England Journal of Medicine says has been instigated by deep tissue massage. In this case, a 39-year-old woman received a deep tissue massage, which included the abdomen and right upper quadrant. Within 24 hours, she developed abdominal discomfort, nausea, and pain in her right shoulder. A large hematoma was found in her right hepactic lobe, causing the woman to feel nauseous and have a fever for the following six months.
The Touch Research Institute has conducted about many dozens of small studies showing the positive effects of massage and touch therapies on many conditions. It’s all a little too good to be true (or all true). I think the Touch Research Institute designs studies in such a way that a positive spin on touch therapy is inevitable. For instance, many of their papers are particularly afflicted by two statistical errors: confusing statistical and clinical significance (or just ignoring the difference when convenient), and comparing the wrong things to arrive at so-called “significance” (see Statistical Significance Abuse: A lot of research makes scientific evidence seem more “significant” than it is.) Also, conclusions in the abstracts of these papers are often so broadly stated as to be uninteresting: one of their studies concludes, for instance, that the subjects “report satisfaction.” Satisfaction is not a meaningful outcome. People are often satisfied with snake oil — that doesn’t mean it works! Some of these scientific papers seem more like press releases, produced by a professional association to promote the profession of massage therapy. I no longer take TRI studies seriously. BACK TO TEXT

Thai massage typically works with compression — rhythmic pressing movements directed into muscle tissues by either the hand or fingers. Thai massage usually takes place on a futon mat on the floor, with the client wearing loose or stretchy clothing like yoga gear. The therapist is also on the mat and moves your body into various stretches and positions, without any work on your part. This is why it is sometimes called "lazy man's yoga". Thai massage can be both relaxing and energizing, so it is a good choice if you want to be active after your massage.
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.

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This seems like a fairly straightforward bit of good-news science about stretching. It’s not a surprising idea that movement would have some systemic regulatory effects (motion is lotion, use it or lose it), but it’s nice to see some corroboration of that common sensical notion, and it’s also nice to know that perhaps just stretching did this (to the extent we can learn anything from a single study). If true, it makes for nice evidence to support a general stretching habit, yoga, mobilizations, really any kind of “massaging with movement,” and probably even massage itself.
Reducing dislocated joints; stretching muscle cramps; warming up freezing hands and feet, or restoring circulation to a leg that has fallen asleep; and nearly anything that relieves awful pressure, like lancing boils and cysts or hematomas under toenails, or childbirth, or evacuation of impacted bowels — all very painful, but also very relieving. BACK TO TEXT
Pumping - The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing the pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.
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.
In a study looking at happiness levels in people who took vacations and then ranked them, those who rated their sprees as "very relaxed" also reported feeling happier compared to those who did not vacation, and even compared to those who did vacation but did not report feeling "very relaxed." The benefits of these "very relaxed" vacations typically lasted at most two weeks, the study found.
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.”
Sports massage is a form of bodywork geared toward participants in athletics. It is used to help prevent injuries, to prepare the body for athletic activity and maintain it in optimal condition, and to help athletes recover from workouts and injuries. Sports massage has three basic forms: pre-event massage, post-event massage, and maintenance 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?.)
We all have different goals and challenges in life; therefore it’s highly important that we create our own life motto to keep us on track. This mantra will focus your mind and stop you from being anxious and overwhelmed when life throws you yet another curve ball. Identify your challenges, weaknesses and goals so you can craft your own personal mantra.
For now, and maybe forever, we can only judge these methods on the basis of the the strength of their defining idea. What’s different about it from other common massage methods? Anything? What can it do that supposedly other techniques cannot? You’d be surprised how many barely count as more than a slight variation on Swedish massage. Even if it is distinctive, is the big idea any better than a pet theory? Most are not. The history of medicine is littered with pet theory corpses. Most treatment ideas do not work out (null hypothesis), even really good ones. And almost everything that is worthwhile about massage is probably thanks to being artfully touched, which you’ll get from most methods.
In a poll of 25–35-year-olds, 79% said they would like their health insurance plan to cover massage.[28] In 2006 Duke University Health System opened up a center to integrate medical disciplines with CAM disciplines such as massage therapy and acupuncture.[126] There were 15,500 spas in the United States in 2007, with about two-thirds of the visitors being women.[119]
Pre-event sports massage is done to help prevent serious athletic injury. It helps to warm up the muscles, stretching them and making them flexible for optimal athletic performance. A pre-event massage stimulates the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles, reduces muscle tension, loosens the muscles, and produces a feeling of psychological readiness.

This seems like a fairly straightforward bit of good-news science about stretching. It’s not a surprising idea that movement would have some systemic regulatory effects (motion is lotion, use it or lose it), but it’s nice to see some corroboration of that common sensical notion, and it’s also nice to know that perhaps just stretching did this (to the extent we can learn anything from a single study). If true, it makes for nice evidence to support a general stretching habit, yoga, mobilizations, really any kind of “massaging with movement,” and probably even massage itself.

A licensed massage therapist should ask you about your health history before the massage. Thai massage may not be safe for someone with health conditions such as disk herniation, osteoporosis, recent surgery, or cardiovascular disease. If you're considering trying Thai massage, it's a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before getting treatment to discuss whether it's appropriate for you.
Lactic acid is not a dead-end, “bad” metabolic waste product, and it does not cause post-exercise soreness. This is a pernicious and seemingly un-killable myth. It originated with “one of the classic mistakes in the history of science,” according to George Brooks, a Berkley physiologist. I will not give the myth any further air time here. See Gina Kolata’s clear overview in the New York Times, or a concise professional summary by Robergs in Experimental Phsyiology. For a deeper and geekier, but excellent read, see Dr. Goodwin’s entertaining rant about the prevalence of the lactate myth in the 2012 summer Olympics coverage. BACK TO TEXT

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).

Seriously, walk away from the screen(s). In fact, once you finish reading this article, you can walk away from this screen, too. Today, there’s so much time spent taking in information. You read the news, have your most personal conversations, and work, all from the same little screen. So, leave it behind. Taking regular breaks from your phone and computer can help reset your brain and bring relief. And doing so before bed (at least 45 minutes before) will help you drift to slumber without a heavy mind.

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“The ritual process brings us renewed balance, empowerment, energy and comfort,” writes Jennifer Louden in her book The Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life. This gives you a specific time to focus on nurturing yourself and your needs. The key, according to Louden, in creating a daily ritual is repetition. Here’s an example from the book:

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