For many years the best review of the science that was available, by Furlan et al., had a cautiously optimistic conclusion, declaring that “massage is beneficial.”37 But then, in 2015, Furlan et al. added another dozen studies to the pool of data, and actually changed their tune: now they have “very little confidence that massage is an effective treatment for LBP.”38 And nor should they. Although there are scraps of good news, the evidence damns massage with faint praise — just like all other “promising” back pain treatments.
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Although there is a lot of negativity — also known as realism — in this article, I also still recommend massage. It has some plausible medical benefits, even if they are inconsistent and unproven. For instance, patients may get at least temporary pain reduction from any kind of stimulation of “muscle knots,” which are a likely factor in many common pain problems — but poorly understood, controversial, and certainly treatment is unreliable in any case. (I summarize this topic below, but it’s such a huge topic that I have several other large pages devoted to trigger points.)
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.
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.
Massage in China is an extremely popular therapy, the city of Shanghai alone playing host to over 1500 foot massage centers while there are more than 3000 in Shenzhen. It is one of the biggest service industries in China with workers in Shanghai numbering in the tens of thousands. The average rate of pay for a worker in the massage industry in China is over 10000 yuan per month, making it among the highest paid jobs in China’s service sector. China’s massage parlors are frequently linked to the sex industry and the government has taken a number of measures in recent times to curb prostitution and the spread of disease. In a nationwide crackdown known as the yellow sweep ("Yellow" in Mandarin Chinese refers to sexual activities or pornographic content), limitations on the design and operation of massage parlors have been placed, going so far as requiring identification from customers who visit massage establishments late at night and logging their visits with the local police.
The significant difference in the two approaches is their effect on these layers. A Swedish technique uses lubricant to glide over the layers – whether that be on a superficial layer (light pressure) or a deeper layer (firm pressure). There may also be kneading of the muscles, vibration or percussion to stimulate the muscles, and passive and/or active joint movements. All of these techniques serve to increase circulation of blood and lymph, soften and relax the tissues, reduce cortisol levels in the body (the stress hormone), and provide a generalized sense of relaxation for the client.
Partners in Healing is a full service holistic healing center. From Acupuncture to Chiropractic Care, Manual Therapies and more, we provide our patients with holistic care personalized for their unique needs. We strive to truly create a partnership between the patient and practitioners, enabling each patient to reach their optimal state of wellness.
Panic attacks have certain patterns. Time how long it takes to build up, the duration of the panic attack, how long it takes to calm down and at what point you are finally able to resume your normal activity. It may not be easy doing this, but timing your panic attacks will enable you to have better control over it the next time it happens. You will also be able to tell those around you before an attack occurs, how long it is liable to last, and how they can help you.
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I love the simple yet profound way that Thich Nhat Hanh writes. This book lead me to numerous insights into my own process and has helped me to relax and be kinder to myself and others. I have studied tai chi for years and all of my teachers have stressed the value of relaxing, often stating that it is the most important principle. This book has helped me to apply this principle to all of me: body, mind and spirt. Relaxing is the key to living a more full life with greater mindfulness, loving kindness and energy.
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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.
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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
Meditation in its purest form involves focusing on one thing to clear your mind. Usually done in a quiet room, it calms the mind and the body — and can get your mind off your pain. Meditation sounds easier than it is, however, and distraction is usually a problem for beginners. Try following a recorded guided meditation, or seek the guidance of an experienced meditation teacher.
Only the statistical significance of the results is touted in the abstract, not their size. This almost always means a real effect that was too small to emphasize. So I read the full paper and, sure enough, the effects of massage were positive but modest at best (and in many cases trivial). There were a lot of measures of success, and none changed all that much. The phrase “damned with faint praise” comes to mind, as it so often does in massage science.
Jason DeAntonis is an award-winning Bay Area artist, known for his sumi ink illustrations, and his fine carpentry and custom furniture. He has also worked in sculpture, costume design, glass blowing, painting, printmaking, and book illustration. His work has appeared in Mindfulness in the Garden, How to Sit, How to Eat, How to Walk, How to Love, and How to Relax. He lives in Berkeley, California.