For Pietrunti, an interest in sports massage began as part of his military experience. Serving as a Navy Chief Petty Officer where he was a fitness leader at various naval commands, Pietrunti says, “I began to look into corrective exercise to help my sailors and clients with athletic performance and pain management, but I felt that something was missing.”
Another alarmingly common example is the sensation of skin tearing. This has been inflicted on me personally on at least three occasions, and not by poorly trained therapists — quite the opposite, the perpetrators were all well-trained massage therapists doing a kind of “fascial release” therapy that they clearly thought of as an “advanced” technique.7

While this massage is designed to help ease pain, you might experience discomfort during your appointment, especially when your therapist is applying pressure to a problem area. It is best to speak up and let your therapist know if the discomfort becomes painful; even though the Deep Tissue massage is meant to apply more pressure, pain does not mean that the massage is working. You might also experience some soreness and stiffness; this is perfectly normal and should subside within 24 hours. ElementsMassage.com recommends that you drink a lot of water in order to flush out the lactic acid that will have accumulated in the tissues; this may ease some of the soreness. Bruising after your massage may also occur; keep in mind that your therapist was applying more pressure in order to reach your troubled areas, light bruising is normal. Cathy Wong also points out that “case reports have reported venous thromboembolism, spinal accessory neuropathy, hepatic hematoma, and posterior interosseous syndrome after deep tissue massage.”


Deep-tissue massage can be an effective treatment for injured muscles. Because it facilitates the movement of toxins from the muscles and helps stretch tight or twisted muscle mass, deep-tissue massage can help promote healing. Because massage also helps relax muscles, it can reduce the pain caused by injuries, too. Deep-tissue massage is frequently used to rehabilitate sports injuries.

The owner of the school collected (and sold) crystals, and used them for healing purposes. I ended up amassing quite a collection of my own, using them to do chakra balances on people, performing psychic surgery with them, and any number of woo procedures. I also purchased magnetic pads for my massage table. I attended homeopathy workshops. I got heavily into essential oils, which I still love and use today—with the caveat that while I think many of them are useful as folk remedies for various simple ailments, I’m not going to advise someone with cancer that they can cure it with an oil, which unbelievably, I notice massage therapists doing all the time—and worse—on social media.


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.
In the summer of 2009, I attended the Science-Based Medicine conference and The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas: a huge gathering of skeptics, scientists, and critical thinkers. I was the only alternative health care professional at the conference that I know of. I introduced myself publicly to a couple hundred doctors and scientists as a “skeptical massage therapist.” They were delighted, and for the next four days, skeptics approached me regularly to say, “Hey, that was brave! But massage isn’t quackery, is it?”
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 …
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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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). 

Headaches. Severe headaches and migraines are the second most common pain conditions in the U.S. (15 percent) according to the AAPM, and Everhart says that massage therapy can oftentimes help in these cases. The Migraine Relief Center (MRC) indicates that the reason this modality works is that it eases muscle spasms, improves blood flow and circulation, relieves tension, and increases relaxation. The MRC shares that it is also especially helpful when it comes to tension and vascular headaches.

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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.

Are you stressed or unhappy? Do you need to calm down? Training your mind to relax isn't difficult and can help you feel rested and prepared at any time. To relax your mind, consider meditating, practicing healthier habits like exercise, engaging in relaxing activities like listening to music, and avoiding or reducing common stress triggers like social media. When you find methods that work for you, cultivate and practice them often. In time, you'll be able to relax quicker and easily.
Before booking an appointment, ask questions about the therapist’s education and experience, like “What is your training?” “How many years have you been practicing?” and “Do you work frequently with runners?”, suggests Gammal. Seek referrals if possible, and ensure s/he is a licensed massage therapist. Rotenberger recommends a massage therapist specifically trained in orthopedic treatment and assessment, as s/he will know when to refer you to another healthcare professional, in the case that you’re experiencing chronic pain and discomfort not fixable via massage. You can find a reputable practitioner via www.orthomassage.net or www.NeuroMuscular-Reprogramming.com.

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,’”   

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There are several types of massage that focus on different parts of the body or healing approaches. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension. A massage therapist is a person trained in giving massages.
Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.
Once you've discovered how to relax, you should experience less overall stress. The next step is learning how to maintain a state of relaxation and learning how to relax again quickly after you deal with future stressors. Adding key features to your lifestyle can help you to amass more resources for dealing with stressors you face, and become less reactive to these stressors as well.
Our body and mind need sleep in order to rest and refresh. Sleep deprivation is one of the primary causes of anxiety. An average person requires eight hours of sleep every day. When your brain is sleep deprived, it may not be able to respond to emotional events appropriately. Go to bed early and make sure that you get seven to nine hours of sleep every night to maintain a healthy mind.
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."
“Resonate” in this context means that physical pain may transmogrify into emotional pain and vice versa. Emotional and physical pain readily create and reinforce each other. I assume that catharsis is inherently valuable, and I think that’s a fairly safe assumption. I discuss the relationship between pain and emotions in from many angles in several articles, like Pain is Weird, Pain Relief from Personal Growth, The Anatomy of Vitality, Why Do We Get Sick?, The Art of Bioenergetic Breathing, Insomnia Until it Hurts, and Anxiety & Chronic Pain. Whether catharsis is medically helpful for pain obviously depends on many factors, but it’s certainly possible — just as they can reinforce each other, relief from one may also be coupled to relief from the other. BACK TO TEXT

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But logistics, economics, and devilish details get in the way. Not many scientists are interested in studying massage, while massage therapists don’t have scientific training. It’s an expensive and overwhelming challenge for a massage therapist to make room in their career for some research — few do it, and hardly any have ever done it well. Even when they do, you’d be amazed how hard it is to even find 100 people with the same problem, so studies of that size are almost never done: instead you get studies of 20 or 30 patients, which isn’t generally enough to prove much. Another challenge is that “massage” can mean so many things that it’s hard to know what is even really being studied (lack of standardization of treatment).4

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).


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:
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.

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.

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