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.
Hot stone massage is best for people who have muscle pain and tension or who simply want to relax. This type of therapeutic massage is similar to a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. It eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain by using heated stones. Hot stone massage may help:

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No need to go on a retreat to the mountains—five minutes of peace is all it takes to reap the benefits of meditation. There’s evidence that just two quick bouts of silent meditation per day can relieve stress and depression A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Meditation for Work Stress, Anxiety and Depressed Mood in Full-Time Workers. Manocha, R., Black, D., Sarris, J., Stough, C., et al. Discipline of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney University, St. Leonards, Australia. Evidence-basedcomplimentary and alternative medicine. Epub 2011.. Find a comfortable spot in a quiet place, concentrate on your breath, and feel those anxieties start to disappear.
Trigger points or stress points may also cause muscle soreness and decreased flexibility. These points are specific spots in muscle and tendons which cause pain when pressed, and which may radiate pain to a larger area. They are not bruises, but are thought by some to be small areas of spasm. Trigger points may be caused by sudden trauma (like falling or being hit), or may develop over time from the stress and strain of heavy physical exertion or from repeated use of a particular muscle.
Massage is a profoundly valuable service regardless of what specific effects it does or does not have on pain, tissues, or pathologies. A pleasant, relaxing experience may have any number of minor therapeutic benefits, such as bringing your blood pressure down. However, the subtler benefits of massage extend well beyond that, into the territory of emotional and psychological benefits that are virtually impossible to define or measure — and surprisingly potent.

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


The constipation claim is another good example of something that’s probably as clinically trivial as it is certain. Who the hell thinks, “I haven’t had a crap in days: I guess I’d better buy a professional massage!” (I might rub my own belly.) In ten years working as an RMT, I think I did that kind of abdominal massage maybe a half dozen times — demand for the service was rather low. I’ve been writing about the science of massage even longer, and this is literally the first time the word “constipation” has ever appeared on this website — because who cares?
And yet some medical benefits are plausible despite the lack of evidence. For instance, many apparently successful treatments may be due to the effects of pressure on “muscle knots,” which are a likely factor in many common pain problems, but poorly understood (and difficult to treat). And regardless, the effects on mood and mental health are so profound that patients can’t really lose — it’s a valuable service whether it “works” for pain or not.
Two general effects [of massage, MT] are well-supported by scientific data and widely agreed-upon by MT researchers. Quantitative research reviews show that a series of MT treatments consistently produces sizable reductions of depression in adult recipients. The effects of MT on anxiety are even better understood. Single sessions of MT significantly reduce state anxiety, the momentary emotional experiences of apprehension, tension, and worry in both adults and in children, and multiple sessions of MT, performed over a period of days or weeks, significantly reduce trait anxiety, the normally stable individual tendency to experience anxiety states, to an impressive degree in adults.

A sports massage is typically a combination of several massage techniques that are tailored to your affected muscle groups based on the activities that you do. A properly administered sports massage can help flush the lactic acid out of your body. There are two types of sports massages that can benefit triathletes depending on when you schedule your appointment and your race schedule.

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Massage treats delayed onset (post-exercise) muscle soreness. Supposedly, massage therapy can stop that awful soreness that develops after an intense workout, known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — which is ironic, because massage is also well-known to cause a little next-day soreness. Although some studies have shown that massage can take the edge off DOMS, that’s about as good as it gets59 — perhaps a 30% temporary pain reduction when the planets align. It certainly doesn’t restore your strength any sooner. As with increasing circulation, it’s important to maintain perspective: it wouldn’t matter much even if massage did cure DOMS. Although DOMS can be pretty unpleasant, it’s one of the most trivial of all pain problems, guaranteed to solve itself within three days. On a closely related note …

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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.
The NCCIH adds that massage therapy may also be potentially harmful to women who are pregnant. Even though research has found that it offers this demographic some positive effects, such as decreased depression and anxiety and reduced leg and back pain, it is still important to obtain approval from her healthcare provider first to ensure that she can receive a safe sports massage.
“Runners put so much effort into training, but very few athletes put effort into taking good care of body that helps them perform,” says Gammal, who recommends incorporating regular massage—even if it’s just a 30-minute session once a month—so as to prevent injuries and the overtraining of muscles.  Scheduling mid-training appointments can also reveal places that are tight and places that should be addressed in post-workout stretching. “Massage isn’t a luxury, Gammal says. “It’s an investment.”
If exercising feels to much like a chore then how about enjoying some guilt-free time with your friends? In ‘Play it Away’, author Charlie Hoehn explains how spending 30 minutes each day on any outdoor activity with your friends may actually be the key when trying to cure anxiety. He even created a Pinterest board with all sorts of activity ideas you can try out.

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And it’s a tepid mix. The conclusions aren’t wholly negative, but they are way less positive than they should be. There is some promising evidence here that suggests MLD probably helps some of these patients at least a little bit some of the time, but even that “needs to be confirmed.” And a couple studies showed some modest swelling reduction — but really not that much, or not even a statistically significant result.
Challenges include breaking into the sports arena. Often, massage is not viewed as a primary service. If you do get in with a team or individual, the travel schedule can be daunting; long hours, little sleep, and being away from your family and business can be really difficult. Finally, the work can be very physically challenging. This can take a toll on the massage therapist, so exceptional body mechanics and self-care are essential.

Thai Massage is a popular massage therapy that is used for management of conditions such as musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Thai Massage involves a number of stretching movements that improve body flexibility, joint movement and also improve blood circulation throughout the body. In one study scientists found that Thai Massage showed comparable efficacy as the painkiller ibuprofen in reduction of joint pain caused by osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.[69]
In the Thai language it is usually called nuat phaen thai (Thai: นวดแผนไทย; lit. 'Thai-style massage') or nuat phaen boran (Thai: นวดแผนโบราณ, IPA: [nûət pʰɛ̌ːn boːraːn]; lit. 'ancient-style massage'), though its formal name is nuat thai (Thai: นวดไทย, lit. 'Thai massage') according to the Traditional Thai Medical Professions Act, BE 2556 (2013).[1]
The psychoanalyst David Morgan, of the Institute of Psychoanalysis, believes that for many of us this deadening retreat to our screens is both a reason for and a consequence of the fact that we no longer know how to relax and enjoy ourselves. Our screens and what we use them for are all techniques of distraction, he says. “People have got so used to looking for distraction that they actually cannot stand an evening with themselves. It is a way of not seeing oneself, because to have insight into oneself requires mental space, and all these distraction techniques are used as a way of avoiding getting close to the self.”
Standing up for a quick stretch can relieve muscle tension and help us relax during a stressful workday Muscle stretching as an alternative relaxation training procedure. Carlson, C.R., Collins, F.R. Jr., Nitz, A.J, et al. University of Kentucky. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry 1990;21(1): 29-38.. Why not try a shoulder roll-out or a chest-opening stretch right from the desk chair?
And yet some medical benefits are plausible despite the lack of evidence. For instance, many apparently successful treatments may be due to the effects of pressure on “muscle knots,” which are a likely factor in many common pain problems, but poorly understood (and difficult to treat). And regardless, the effects on mood and mental health are so profound that patients can’t really lose — it’s a valuable service whether it “works” for pain or not.
It is important to recognise the difference between good stress and bad stress, life-changing events like getting married, becoming a parent, moving house, starting a new job or starting school can all be stressful events; but these are ultimately good for you – the stress is usually short-lived.  Bad and more dangerous stress is long-term background stress which can be caused by any number of factors including: frustration, overwork, failure or perceived failure as well as more specific life circumstances and illnesses.

If this theory is correct, or even half-right, it would go a long way to explain the strong appeal of massage — maybe it actually can take the edge off a great variety of problems — but also its inability to work miracles. If trigger points are the main reason massage seems at least a little bit helpful in so many cases, they are also the reason that the results are so unpredictable. The best ways to treat trigger points are simply unknown, and it may be next to impossible. All trigger point therapy is guesswork. Therapists have greatly variable education, skill, and luck in this process. Most simply aren’t that good at it — they can’t be, because muscle pain physiology is obscure, complex, and basically way out of their league.80
A satisfying sensation doesn’t necessarily imply successful treatment, unfortunately. Scratching mosquito bites feels great… but it’s not helping them! Trigger points may be like mosquito bites: it may feel terrific to massage those mysterious sensitive spots in soft tissue, but it may not be doing much to actually “release” or resolve them. It may be a purely sensory experience, the satisfaction of dealing with an “itch” that we cannot easily reach on our own.
Let go of guilt. Many religious and cultural beliefs instill the value of hard work very deeply. Over time, and increasingly so with the advent of smart technology that keeps us hyper-wired 24/7, many of us have come to believe that being "on-the-go" constantly is the only way to prove our value. Having an unrealistic interpretation of "hard work" will end up wearing you down. Hard work is giving your tasks the attention they deserve at the time they deserve, not letting it bleed into all hours of your day!

Some sports massage therapists use myofascial techniques that focus on stretching the fascia, which are connective tissues surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments in the body. This particular massage technique involves the therapist applying forces in opposing directions which relaxes the tissues. It can help ease pain and increase mobility in the tissues and surrounding muscles.
An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.
Research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reported findings of a positive trend for deep tissue massages in regard to improved athletic recovery and performance. The most beneficial type of deep tissue massage for athletes is considered to be “sports massage,” which is commonly performed prior to athletic events to help warm the body and prevent injuries or immediately after to improve recovery.
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.

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..
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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Massage therapists, and others in the holistic arts … seem to be a particularly gullible bunch. And there are a lot of people who have seized upon that, and marketed their products, their classes, their modalities, and their wild claims to us … and many of us have fallen for it, hook, line and sinker … and unfortunately, gone on to convince our clients to buy into it, as well. … Our profession has turned into the snake oil medicine show.
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.
Develop an invisible shield between yourself and stressed folk. This is really a visualization technique, in which you imagine that you are cocooned against the negative vibes of overly stressed people around you. See their behavior and attitudes for what they are, recognize what their stress is doing to them but refuse to let this penetrate your shield.
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.

I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com

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. 

Dr. Stephen Barrett is a prominent anti-quackery activist. In an article on his popular website, QuackWatch, Barrett condemns common non-massage practices in massage therapy, but not massage itself: “ordinary massage and the legitimate practice of massage therapy should not be categorized as quackery.”47 That’s surprising tolerance from such a fierce critic of questionable health care.
Pre-event massage is given shortly before an athlete competes. It consists mainly of brisk effleurage to stimulate and warm the muscles and petrissage to help muscles move fluidly and to reduce muscle tension. Effleurage is generally a relaxing stroke , but when done briskly it is stimulating. As the massage progresses, the pressure increases as the massage therapist uses percussive strokes and cupping to stimulate the muscles to contract and flex. The part of the body being massaged varies from sport to sport, although leg and back muscles are common targets for this type of massage.
Acupressure [from Latin acus "needle" (see acuity) + pressure (n.)[31]] is a technique similar in principle to acupuncture. It is based on the concept of life energy which flows through "meridians" in the body. In treatment, physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points with the aim of clearing blockages in those meridians. Pressure may be applied by fingers, palm, elbow, toes or with various devices.

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