Sam Homola, DC, a chiropractic “heretic” and author of Inside Chiropractic: A patient’s guide, writes, “We … know that massage may be as effective as cervical manipulation in relieving tension headache.” (p147) Dr. Homola is extremely critical not only of chiropractic, but of many other alternative health care practices as well, and he clearly does not tolerate irrational claims of therapeutic efficacy. And yet he is content to make this positive statement about massage therapy. That constitutes a good endorsement!
The more often people check social media accounts, texts, and email, the higher their level of stress, revealed the American Psychological Association's 2017 Stress in America report. Findings from the Pew Research Center underline another negative Facebook effect: Women are particularly vulnerable to stress from social media due to being aware of lousy stuff happening to friends.
Plus, this is not the kind of study where a large number of subjects is needed to be convincing. Of course, replication and more subjects are always a critical part of science. But the claim of detoxification is what we call a “brittle” claim — it breaks easily, because anything less than a clear positive effect is not enough to impress anyone. For brittle claims, even just a lack of effect is always news, because there should be a worthwhile effect, according to the claim. In this case the claim is that massage meaningfully reduces lactic acid … and in this experiment, it didn’t just fail to have an effect, it had the opposite effect. That evidence is definitely news, whether it’s proof or not. BACK TO TEXT
We usually need to relax when we are feeling tense, anxious, or angry. Part of these feelings are due to an activation of something called the sympathetic nervous system, which includes parts of your brain that detect and respond to threats and stress. Without getting too deep into the physiology, when you are tense, anxious, or angry, your sympathetic nervous system is activated, and your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your blood pressure increases, your digestion stops, your muscles tense, your circulation changes, stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline, among others) are released in your blood stream, and your thoughts speed up and focus on a target (read more about that in Three Frames of Mind). When this is happening, our bodies feel unpleasant and we look for ways to feel better.
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So presenting lactic acid as some kind of metabolic bogeyman that massage can purge from the flesh is wrong on many levels. This is another nail in the coffin of the daft notion that massage “detoxifies,” and yet another reason to be suspicious of any therapist who talks about “detoxification” — as is sometimes unethically done to rationalize adverse effects of therapy that actually have other causes, including potentially serious conditions.69
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Low back pain is a huge health problem, and massage therapists claim to get good results when treating low-back pain. Indeed, low back treatments are the bread and butter of the profession. I’d guess that about 70% of massage purchases are for back pain. The amount of money that patients around the world spend on massage for back pain must be simply huge, at least in the tens of millions annually, and probably much more. As with chiropractic care, massage therapists might not have much of a business model if people didn’t have low back 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..
To put it bluntly, it’s not clear that massage has any musculoskeletal benefits at all. It probably does, but mostly quite temporary and highly unpredictable. There’s not nearly enough science, and therapists are hopelessly biased assessing their own efficacy. See Does Massage Therapy Work? A review of the science of massage therapy … such as it is. BACK TO TEXT
Take a tropical vacation without leaving the desk chair. Use a five-minute break to peel, slice, and bite into a juicy mango, which packs a compound called linalool that helps lower stress levels Stress repression in restrained rats by (R)-(-)-linalool inhalation and gene expression profiling of their whole blood cells. Nakamura, A., Fujiwara, S., Matsumoto, I., et al. Technical Research Center, T Hasegawa Co, ltd, Kawasaki-shi, Japan. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009;57(12):5480-5.. Don’t fret about the juice dripping down your chin—the stress relief is worth the mess.
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“I rearrange all of the art and furniture and items in my apartment and usually do some sort of cleaning out of something (books, clothes, kitchen cabinets) in the process. My brain enters this hyper-relaxed state where I’m actively considering space and meaning and emotion but in a non-literal language that makes my mind kind of…hum? Does that make sense? And then I blink and it’s been four hours and I have a few missed calls and emails but I don’t care because I feel wonderful.”
Massage may be an appropriate technique for helping certain sports injuries, especially muscle injuries, to heal. When treating an injury, however, it is best to seek advice from a qualified sports therapist or a specialist in sports medicine before performing any massage. Certain ligament and joint injuries that need immobilization and expert attention may be aggravated by massage.
Excellent little book. Used as a stocking stuffer over the holidays. She absolutely loves it. She keeps it in her glove box for safe keeping and as a helpful reminder. Let's face it, life gets hard and stressful from time to time. We need to focus on what is most important and this book touches on just that. The best part is its size and how condensed the information is. Easy to read. Good for all ages.
Put your feet up—against the wall, of course. The Vipariti Kirani yoga pose involves lying on the floor and resting the legs up against a wall. Not only does it give the body a good stretch, but it helps create peace of mind, too The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Li, A.W., Goldsmith, C.A. St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Brighton, MA. Alternative Medicine Review 2012;17(1):21-35..
When travelling with USA Swimming, a typical day for Olympic Trials, which is a 10-day trip, usually looks like the following: Arrive at pool by 9 a.m. to start 20-minute massage sessions for athletes. Break from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for lunch and return to pool by 4 p.m. for finals at 6 to 8:30 p.m. Massage athletes after finals at pool from 8:30 to 10 p.m.
PS Ingraham. Central Sensitization in Chronic Pain: Pain itself can change how pain works, resulting in more pain with less provocation. PainScience.com. 5428 words. Pain itself often modifies the way the central nervous system works, so that a patient actually becomes more sensitive and gets more pain with less provocation. This is called “central sensitization.” (And there’s peripheral sensitization too.) Sensitized patients are not only more sensitive to things that should hurt, but also to ordinary touch and pressure as well. Their pain also “echoes,” fading more slowly than in other people. BACK TO TEXT
Number 10 across: Anxious, overwhelmed, or freaking out (seven letters). If you guessed “Stressed,” you’re in good shape to try some crossword puzzles. Brain games that require lots of concentration can help take our mind off whatever’s worrying us Trait anxiety and impoverished prefrontal control of attention. Bishop, S.J. Department of Psychology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkley, Berkley, CA. Nature Neuroscience 2009;12(1):92-8..
These myths barely scratch the surface: massage therapists say and believe many much more bizarre things, living up to their reputation for flakiness. Dozens of bizarre and hilarious example are compiled here: 💩 Massage Therapists Say: A compilation of more than 50 examples of the bizarre nonsense spoken by massage therapists with delusions of medical knowledge. Which is in turn just a small slice of the larger problem of “therapy babble” in (mostly) alternative healthcare.
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
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.
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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Good massage therapists are the ones with more training and a bigger toolkit. They do what they can with the tools they judge to be the most useful, and they candidly discuss risks, benefits, evidence, and controversies. They don’t just pay lip service to humility as a general principle of alternative medicine — they make it a centerpiece, recognizing that they really are not trained enough to know much.
The titles masseur and masseuse (the feminine form of the word masseur) have a long and colorful history related to massage. Both terms were used to describe men and women, respectively, who provided massage in exchange for payment. But these terms, especially masseuse, were hijacked by irreputable women operating under the guise of “massage,” beginning in the 1950s. Over the past 30-plus years, massage professionals have worked to help get laws enacted that protect titles that reflect their training and professional standards. Today, state laws protect titles including massage therapist, massage practitioner and massage technician. Still, the words masseuse and masseur live on as ways of describing the kind of touch not practiced by educated massage professionals. ‘"Masseur is to massage therapist as stewardess is to flight attendant,’”
Doctors think looking up health information online can be problematic because the computer doesn’t have the same diagnostic skills as a healthcare professional. Physicians determine whether an issue is serious by considering personal factors like a patient’s family history and age. (Wrinkles at age five isn’t normal— sorry, Benjamin Button.) On the other hand, when someone searches for “headaches” online, they may find several sources suggesting they are suffering from something much worse…
Trust and pain. Bear in mind that feeling safe is critical to the experience of good pain. Tiny differences in trust and comfort can make the difference between an intense pain being good or bad. Much of the “goodness” of good pain comes from mental context, from knowing that a pain is not dangerous or pointless, that it will not increase suddenly, or anything else yucky or shocking.
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Life gets a lot easier when you plan out your day. Get a head start by waking up 10 minutes earlier. Then, create a rough plan in your mind about how you plan to spend your day. Sometimes it is helpful to jot down a list and take it with you. Check off each event as you finish it and then you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.
"When people assume that if they don't get to their to-dos, their world will fall apart, that needs to be questioned," says mindfulness expert Ellen Langer, PhD, professor of psychology at Harvard University. Reason with yourself: What's the worst that will happen if you don't declutter tonight? Five years from now, will you be happier that you excavated the coat closet or that you had coffee with a friend? Exactly.
In Japanese, shiatsu means "finger pressure." For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body's vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
I love this series by Thich Nhat Hanh. Great size and good for gifting, as its a small, compact book. I bought it to give to my dad but ending up holding on to it for a while to read myself! Very easy to read and great mantras and thoughts inside. Good intro for mindfulness for anyone not familiar with the author's other works. I am not a fan of 'how to' books but I am hooked on this series. Highly recommend.
Massage therapists will use their fingers, thumbs or occasionally even elbows to apply the needed pressure. It is especially helpful for chronically tense and contracted areas such as stiff necks, low back tightness, and sore shoulders. Some of the same strokes are used as classic massage but the movement is slower and the pressure is deeper and concentrated on areas of tension and pain.
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:
We often forget to focus on the simplest, shortest (and one of the most restorative) activities available to us: our breath. Yoga teacher Anna Guest-Jelley suggested taking five deep breaths. “As you do, notice the natural pause between your inhale and exhale, and then between your exhale and your next inhale. Your body has a built-in break — how great is that?!”
(Disclaimer: This article and accompanying content (links, etc) is for informational and discussion purposes only and should not be construed as psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic advice of any kind. The Maven Circle assumes no liability for use or interpretation of any information contained in this post. The information contained in this post is intended for discussion purposes only and should not be an alternative to obtaining professional consult from a licensed mental health professional in your state based on the specific facts of your clinical matter.)
“A lot of my stress and listlessness can trace back to feeling too connected to the digital world, and feeling so mentally overwhelmed that I can’t even seem to finish a salient thought. Cooking takes me out of that, particularly if I’m following a challenging recipe. I wouldn’t call myself a cook — in fact I rarely do it — but whenever I force myself to, I never regret it. I love that it’s this physical and productive act with a tangible reward. No matter how anxious I feel going in, I always come out feeling renewed.”
Sports Massage is a no-nonsense massage that helps stretch tight muscles, stimulates inactive muscles and improves soft tissue condition. Sports Massage will help you move your body more freely with more flexibility and in time can improve your posture. As the name suggests it is popular with athletes, as it enhances performance, assists recovery and prevents injury – benefits we can all enjoy.
Yet kicking back is hardly an unproductive activity; experts say that it keeps us healthy and happy. And research shows that regular de-stressing can help ward off heart disease and obesity, act as a buffer against depression, and even boost immunity against colds. Plus, when you're calm, you perform tasks smarter and more efficiently, leaving you with time to—wait for it—relax. Check out these strategies and inspiration for R in R: relaxing in reality.
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.
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.
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.