There is so much uncertainty that it is fair and reasonable to ask if we can really say much of anything about massage based on such incomplete and imperfect evidence. We can, in fact, but it all must be done with our eyes wide open and a lot of qualifiers and hedging of bets. We can’t be certain of anything … but we can certainly be informed by the evidence so far.

For instance, I tried a new young massage therapist. He introduced a pain scale right away, and asked me to use it to define an intensity I was comfortable with — a 5 out 10, say — and then actually used that scale to check with me quite a few times throughout an hour treatment. He also responded with clear adjustments to his technique when I reported that we were under or over the target I’d set. Great work! BACK TO TEXT


The belief of long-term pain-relief as the benefit of short-term agony from massage therapy is a common mistake many make. We think relief will come from a massage therapist digging and crushing our muscles for an entire massage session of an hour or longer. Fortunately at Elements Massage™ studios, your massage session is customized to exactly what you want, proper pressure in the desired area, to ensure your massage provides the relief you are seeking.

During the 1930s and 1940s massage's influence decreased as a result of medical advancements of the time, while in the 1970s massage's influence grew once again with a notable rise among athletes.[10] Until the 1970s, nurses used massage to reduce pain and aid sleep.[22] The massage therapy industry is continuously increasing. In 2009, U.S. consumers spent between $4 and $6 billion on visits to massage therapists.[23] In 2015, research estimates that massage therapy was a $12.1 billion industry.[24]

A 2014 Chinese review of studies by Li et al48 is a good example of what a shabby state massage therapy research is in. Let me be clear up front: I don’t think this paper actually proves anything one way or the other. I think it’s straightforwardly inconclusive. It has a positive sounding conclusion that isn’t really justified and there are major caveats. But it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t go get me some massage if I had fibromyalgia. I probably would! But that’s another story. This is about the science, so here goes:


Everything you feel isn’t necessarily correct or factual. Negative feelings bubble up sometimes with little warning.  Remember fear is often F(alse) E(vidence) A(ppearing) R(eal). Remind yourself to go one step at a time.  Be confident and replace the negative feelings by focusing on something you enjoy.  Practice by noticing things around you that give you a sense of wonder and beauty.  A painting in the hall…the cat sleeping in the sun…your dog’s cheerful greeting.  Anything that creates positive feelings for you will work.  Then when the negative stuff seeps up, counter it with a positive memory.
There is always classical music. Some classical music can be rather intense, especially full symphonic music that was made in the 20th century such as Shostakovitch. To relax, it is best to listen to solo instruments or smaller ensemble classical music, such as music from the Baroque and Classical periods (for example Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi).

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Post-event massage is usually given 1–2 hours after the competition is over in order to give dilated blood vessels a chance to return to their normal condition. Post-event massage is light and gentle in order not to damage already stressed muscles. The goal is to speed up removal of toxic waste products and reduce swelling. Very light effleurage will decrease swelling while light petrissage will help clear away toxins and relieve tense, stiff muscles. Post-event massage can be self-administered on some parts of the body, such as the legs.

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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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.  
An aromatherapy massage is a Swedish massage with scented plant oils (known as essential oils) added to the massage oil. Extracted from flowers and other plant parts, essential oils offer a pleasing scent and are believed to have healing properties. Lavender and rose, for instance, are known to promote relaxation. Although oils may be selected to address specific needs, the therapist typically uses pre-blended oils to relax, energize, or uplift. 

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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.
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 …

Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, a book by Janet Travell, David Simons, and Lois Simons. amazon.com The ultimate myofascial pain syndrome reference, the product of decades of extraordinary dedication by two doctors famously devoted to the subject of soft tissue pain. The two-volume set is also brilliantly illustrated. The introductory chapters constitute an excellent overview of the subject, albeit a dauntingly technical one. Note: although a landmark and important text, more recent information has been published in Muscle Pain: Understanding its nature, diagnosis and treatment by Siegfried Mense and David Simons.


A licensed, traditional massage practitioner is required to complete at least 800 hours training.[2] Massage therapists must acquire a professional license and must register at the Public Health Ministry's Department of Health Service Support (HSS). To qualify for a license, therapists must be trained in courses created by the HSS. The standard courses are provided free. Alternatively, students can go to one of the 181 schools nationwide approved to train therapists using standard HSS courses.[3]
The therapist may utilize some Swedish techniques to warm up the tissues (kneading, friction, percussion), softening the superficial layers so that he or she can access the deeper ones more easily. Then, with little or no lotion, the therapist utilizes the hard surfaces of their hands and arms — surfaces such as fingers, knuckles, forearms, and elbows — and employs a very slow, sustained type of stroke.

While this is practically a no-brainer, it’s still important to note that exercising is an excellent way to get rid of stress. Find the type of exercise that suits you and makes you happy doing it. Some people find walking or jogging very relaxing while others like to dance or lift weights. Find a physical exercise that suits you and raise your heart rate around 20-30 minutes every day.  Simple ways to increase exercise are to take the stairs, and park farther away so you have to walk further.  Look for opportunities to walk and move at home, school or on the job.

“The brain can’t distinguish between reality and imagination, so visualization can be a powerful tool to help you unwind in a snap,” Lindor said. She suggested visualizing yourself at a favorite spot. Be as specific as you can. Note what’s around you. Are you by the ocean? Is it a calm current or are the waves crashing? Are there kids playing? Are they making sand castles or playing in the water? Is the sand white and smooth? Or is it a sparkling black like the Muriwai Beach in New Zealand?
Another interesting indirect example: stretching massages muscles with movement, and so it may feel good for some of the same reasons and share some of the same benefits. And indeed a 2011 study of simple, static stretching showed a clear, good effect on heart rate regulation13 — just from pulling on muscles, which may not be very different from pushing on them. It’s not much of a leap to guess that rubbing soft tissues could also have systematic regulatory effects.
This study showed that “massage may have immediately beneficial effects on pain and mood among patients with advanced cancer” and that it didn’t do much more than simple touch … but they both helped. This is both a scientific blow for massage therapy and a nice validation at the same time. It doesn’t say much for the ability of trained therapists to do any more for a cancer patient than a compassionate nurse can. But it also reinforces the reassuring idea that any kind of touch is therapeutic, and that skill may not be a critical factor in the value of massage therapy to some patients. (Over the years, I’ve seen many amateurs who could give excellent massages simply by virtue of their empathy and attentiveness. Could massage “skill” be mostly just an extension of social skills? Might be.)
Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)
2. Grounding: the second step helps shift your attention to how you are connected to your environment. Since relaxation is a physiological process, it is important to direct your attention to your senses. So for this step, intentionally notice ways you are connected to your surroundings. For me right now, that would mean I intentionally notice my feet on the floor, my back against the chair, and how my sweater feels on my arms.

This study compared the effects of massage and minimal exercise therapy on poor circulation (venous insufficiency) in post-menopausal women. Superficially it looks like a good news story for massage, and in some ways it is. Massage did have a statistically significant positive effect and seems to have “increased circulation” in one sense (something I have often called a myth). But there’s a lot to consider here.

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