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.

Deep Tissue Massage can release the chronic patterns of tension in the body through slow deep strokes on any contacted areas and deep finger pressure on the contracted areas, either following or going across the grain of muscles, tendons and fascia. It is called deep tissue, because it also focuses on the deeper layers of muscle tissue. It can help reduce pain, increase range of motion, relieve muscle spasms and improve circulation.
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 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,’”  
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.
Many training programs are now available throughout the world that require a minimum of 500 hours of basic massage therapy training, in addition to continuing education credits that can require up to another 400–500 hours. (19) Always make sure you’re “in good hands” by first checking that a therapist has proper qualifications and experience, specifically asking about training in NMT, trigger point therapy, sports massage, pain management, myofascial release and orthopedic massage.
Zen gardens are created to represent different soothing elements of nature. These meditation gardens were first used centuries ago by Buddhists. However, anyone can use a Zen garden to find their inner peace. Small Zen garden boxes represent the same elements of traditional Zen gardens and they can help you reduce stress and anxiety in powerful, positive ways. Cultivate your Zen garden to develop quiet mindfulness and inner peace.  Like coloring, this meditative practice enhances your ability to find and maintain your own inner strength and peace.
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.

I stayed there as the administrator and an instructor for five years after I graduated, and during that period of time, I could not possibly even name all the things I went through. I had a lot of psychic readings. I availed myself of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), an invention of Dr. Mercola, [sic]84 which basically consists of tapping on meridian points in order to relieve emotional negativity, food cravings, and pain. I tried Aura Soma, which is described as “color healing.” I got tuned up with tuning forks, and crystal bowls. I participated in one workshop called Matterspeak, which consisted of sitting around chanting random words, letters, and numbers for 8 hours, as in   “1263supercalifragilisti789.” I don’t remember what the purpose of that was and frankly doubt that it had any purpose, other than to enrich the teacher’s pocketbook. If memory serves, she had “channeled” that information from the Atlanteans. I also used the chi machines, the detox foot baths and pads, biofeedback and all kinds of computer programs designed to balance your body, mind and spirit, and most New Agey-sounding things in existence at the time. If it was out there, I tried it. All kinds of “healers” came and went through the school.
Massage reduces inflammation. Um, no. The opposite, if anything.60 According to a sensationalized science news item in early 2012, supposedly massage “reduces inflammation” and “promotes muscle recovery.” But this was a small and technical gene profiling study, several steps removed from clinical reality, trying to explain a phenomenon that doesn’t clearly exist: we already knew that massage doesn’t do much for DOMS.61 All of the evidence about this and DOMS is explored in detail in a separate DOMS article.
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.
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.
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
Training and certification standards for massage therapists are all over the map, and most practitioners have barely scratched the surface of musculoskeletal medicine. The profession is rife with pseudoscience like crank theories about the causes of pain, the myth that massage detoxifies, or that painfully “deep tissue” massage is needed to “release” tissues (which is stressful or even harmful for many patients).
One narrative review in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine explains that the impact of using these two modalities combined are somewhat inconclusive, mainly due to research limitations; however, after looking at 21 randomized controlled trials, the author ultimately concluded that “the effects of cold and static compression are clearly better than no treatment.”
Deep tissue massages are often utilized following injuries to help break up newly forming scar tissue that can make recovery more difficult and lead to stiffness. Massage has been shown to help reduce inflammation and muscle spasms by stimulating blood flow, loosening up muscles to allow for more oxygen and also helping reduce the nervous system’s automatic stress response.
Training and certification standards for massage therapists are all over the map, and most practitioners have barely scratched the surface of musculoskeletal medicine. The profession is rife with pseudoscience like crank theories about the causes of pain, the myth that massage detoxifies, or that painfully “deep tissue” massage is needed to “release” tissues (which is stressful or even harmful for many patients).
For the past 20 years, our medical director, Dr. Justin Newman, has been innovating both an outstanding holistic approach and methods, which have distinguished our clinic as a premier healing center in Miami. The Banyan Holistic is truly an oasis, a boutique-style holistic clinic, that offers a full range of holistic services. A team of licensed, expert professionals provides a coordinated experience designed to help you reach your goals, while simultaneously paving the way for your future growth, wellbeing, and fulfillment. ... View Profile

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Craniosacral therapy is another classic example — popular for decades, it is a touch therapy, not “massage,” and it has never enjoyed any respect from the majority of doctors or scientists. It has even been criticized by many alternative health professionals.36 And yet it is sold with overconfidence by countless manual therapists as though it were proven effective.

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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]


One small study looking at the effect of back massages on Japanese students preparing for exams found that people who got them had less muscle stiffness and lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Some caveats though: the study was small, and it didn't have a control group. In other words, there's no way to know if they'd sent another group of people into a quiet room and not given them massages that they wouldn't have seen similar results, perhaps just from being isolated from their studies.
Thai massage helps to reduce the individual's stress levels and improve their overall circulation. This is accomplished by the gradual movement of the person through different yoga-like positions. This will enhance the persons' flexibility allowing for a greater range of motion. This greater range of motion and flexibility reduces muscle stress and strain, and helps to prevent trip and fall accidents.
Some possible justifications for painfully intense massage (these aren’t endorsements) include the destruction of motor end plates to “de-activate” trigger points; somatoemotional release (pain often strongly “resonates” with strong emotions like grief); moving tissue fluids; or just creating a strong, novel sensory experiences (which may have many subtle benefits).

For the past 20 years, our medical director, Dr. Justin Newman, has been innovating both an outstanding holistic approach and methods, which have distinguished our clinic as a premier healing center in Miami. The Banyan Holistic is truly an oasis, a boutique-style holistic clinic, that offers a full range of holistic services. A team of licensed, expert professionals provides a coordinated experience designed to help you reach your goals, while simultaneously paving the way for your future growth, wellbeing, and fulfillment. ... View Profile
American Heart Association: "Four Ways to Deal With Stress."; PubMed Central: "Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin."; NIH News in Health: "Can Pets Keep You Healthy?"; Cleveland Clinic: "Want a Healthy Heart? Laugh More!"; HelpGuide.org: "Laughter Is the Best Medicine."; Association for Psychological Science: "Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal; Displays Affect Neuroendocrine; Levels and Risk Tolerance."; Harvard Business School: "Power Posing: Fake It Until you Make It."; IZA.org: "The Effect of Sexual Activity on Wages."
AD 1776: Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, and Pierre-Martial Cibot, French missionaries in China translate summaries of Huangdi Neijing, including a list of medical plants, exercises and elaborate massage techniques, into the French language, thereby introducing Europe to the highly developed Chinese system of medicine, medical-gymnastics, and medical-massage.[8]
Think about how easy it is for a baby or small child to fall asleep. We're born with the instinct to relax and sleep when our bodies or minds need a break. Over the years, it becomes necessary to control and even suppress these natural urges to rest, because we must remain alert as we attend school, learn professions, go to work, or care for a family. Many people spend years conditioning themselves to perform well despite feelings of tiredness. While no one would argue that suppressing tiredness can be a necessary skill, it can impair our ability to actually "let go" and relax when we do find the time.
Wiltshire et al subjected 12 people to intense hand-gripping exercises to boost blood levels of lactic acid and other waste products of muscle physiology. Then they measured those substances with and without the subjects receiving basic sports massage. Their data showed that massage significantly “impairs lactic acid and hydrogen ion removal from muscle following strenuous exercise by mechanically impeding blood flow.” 

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The need for some simple source of relaxation can be seen in the initial surge in popularity of the adult colouring book, as well as last year’s 13.3% increase in sales of books providing spiritual guidance on how to live in a hectic world, and the mindfulness “mega trend” seen in Headspace, the meditation app that has been downloaded more than 15m times. Those of us who spent our money on these products were presumably searching for answers to some of the same questions – and many of us are still looking. The bottom has now dropped out of the colouring book market, with Forbes declaring it “dead” in May, and, in June last year, Headspace laid off 13 staff members.
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. 

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The massage therapy for fibromyalgia that epitomizes the “garbage in, garbage out” problem with meta-analysis. There was virtually no research on this topic worth analyzing to begin with. Trying to pool the results of several weak studies is basically meaningless. To the extent that the study results are generally inconclusive and ambiguous, the conclusions of any review are going to have more to do with the authors’ opinions and biases than hard data.
AD 1776: Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, and Pierre-Martial Cibot, French missionaries in China translate summaries of Huangdi Neijing, including a list of medical plants, exercises and elaborate massage techniques, into the French language, thereby introducing Europe to the highly developed Chinese system of medicine, medical-gymnastics, and medical-massage.[8]

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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.”
Try not to worry so much.  Although this is very often easier said than done, sometimes it is possible to distract your mind from unnecessary worry by taking part in some other engaging activity to keep your mind busy.  Furthermore, the simple act of smiling can help lift your mood, release tension and ease difficult situations.  Do something that will make you laugh, talk to a funny friend, watch a comedy or read an amusing story.  You may not feel totally happy but by smiling and laughing you will naturally release tensions and feel more relaxed.  Laughing is a powerful stress-reliever see our page: Laughter Therapy for more.
For almost everyone, after some period of time, our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) kicks in, which brings all of these physiological changes back down to normal. Your heart rate returns to baseline, your blood pressure lowers, digestion starts again, the stress hormones are metabolized, your breathing slows and deepens, and your muscles relax. When this completes, you are back to a pleasant, slower, and more in-control state.
“I decided to go into sports massage when I experienced its effects on me as an athlete,” says McElroy. “Despite having no experience as a competitive runner in high school or college, I joined a team and realized I was pretty good. I trained while working full-time and ran my first marathon, missing the Olympic trial qualifying time by 21 seconds.
Massage-StLouis.com [Internet]. Sanvito A. How Does Massage Work?; 2016 December 31 [cited 17 Feb 28]. While the skin is indeed “the surface of the brain,” there are of course many sensory receptors in deep tissues as well. Massage therapy mainly interacts with the nervous system via the skin, which is extremely richly innervated, and the importance of this is often underestimated or discounted entirely … but it’s not limited to that. For instance, I’ve always particularly loved having my joints moved passively, which creates a flood of proprioception — movement/position sensation — that my brain didn’t initiate, which feels weird in a delicious way. BACK TO TEXT
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?!”
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

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