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
Fascia matters. Many massage therapists are selling “fascial therapy” to patients. The main idea is that fascia — sheets of tough connective tissue found throughout the body — can get tight and restricting, and needs to be “released” by pulling on it. Fascia science is considered an exciting frontier in manual therapy. Unfortunately, although some fascia biology is interesting, the stuff does not seem to have any properties that are actually relevant to healing and therapy. Key examples of fascia research either fail to support fascial therapy or actually undermine it. Enthusiasm about fascia seems to be an unjustified fad. See Does Fascia Matter? A detailed critical analysis of the clinical relevance of fascia science and fascia properties.
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.)
Unsurprisingly, there are almost no comments questioning or challenging anything about the image. Julie Onofrio chimed in with one of the only genuine criticisms: “a few of the things on there are not correct — massage has not been proven to increase endorphins or decrease cortisol.” Agreed: most of the infographer features common scientific myths about massage.
Before you can decide which massage style is best for you, you need to ask yourself a question. Do you simply want a massage for relaxation and stress control? Or do you need symptom relief or help with a certain health condition? Before booking a massage, let the therapist know what you're looking for and ask which style the therapist uses. Many use more than one style. Or the therapist may customize your massage, depending on your age, condition, or any special needs or goals you have.
This energy-based, traditional Thai massage, focuses on feet and reflexology, up to the knees, using a wooden therapy stick, massage oil from Wat Po in Thailand and massage cream. reflexology points on the soles of the feet are associated with particular body organs. Pressure on specific points helps stimulate activities of the inner organs, promotes deep relaxation and improves blood circulation. $80/1hr. $115/1.5hr
Burmese massage is a full body massage technique that starts from head to toes, drawing on acupuncture, reflexology, and kneading. Signature massage strokes include acupressure using the elbows, quick gentle knocking of acupressure points, and slow kneading of tight muscles. The massage is aimed to improve blood circulation and quality of sleep, while at the same time help to promote better skin quality.
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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The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was the first time that massage therapy was televised as it was being performed on the athletes. And then, during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta massage therapy was finally offered as a core medical service to the US Olympic Team. Massage has been employed by businesses and organizations such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Boeing and Reebok. Notable athletes such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James have personal massage therapists that at times even travel with them.
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.
Manual therapists routinely claim that their services are much safer and more effective than drug therapies. Yet this data pretty clearly shows that the difference is really not great. Depending on how you look at it, drugs are only a little worse in some ways, or maybe a little better in other ways. But no matter how you slice it, 20-40% is a pretty unpleasant rate of harm — especially at $60–120/hour!
Over time, deep-tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue in the body. It does this by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage to improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected area. Scar tissue is often associated with ongoing pain and stiffness, so deep-tissue massage can improve these symptoms. Massage therapy is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery.
In Germany massage is regulated by the government on a federal and national level. Only someone who has completed 3,200 hours of training (theoretical and practical) can use the professional title "Masseur und Medizinischer Bademeister" or Medical Masseur and Spa Therapist. This person can prolong his training depending on the length of professional experience to a Physiotherapist (1 year to 18 months additional training). The Masseur is trained in Classical Massage, Myofascial Massage, Exercise and Movement Therapy. During the training they will study: Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Gynecology, Podiatry, Psychiatry, Psychology, Surgery, and probably most importantly Dermiatry and Orthopedics. They are trained in Electrotherapy, and Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy includes: Kneipp, Wraps, underwater Massage, therapeutic washing, Sauna and Steambath. A small part of their training will include special forms of massage which are decided by the local college, for example: Foot reflex zone massage, Thai Massage etc. Finally a graduate is allowed to treat patients under the direction of a doctor. He is regulated by the professional body which regulates Physiotherapists. This includes the restriction on advertising and oath of confidentiality to clients.
That is, regardless of all other considerations, a massage therapist must talk to you about pressure, respect your preferences (they are more important than any treatment ideology), and be careful about stumbling into areas that need much less pressure (for comfort) or much more pressure (for satisfaction). Far too many therapists make the mistake of setting a “default” pressure for a client early on, and then using roughly that much pressure everywhere.
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Typically, sports massage therapists hold a certification and maintain licensure. A good option is to become board certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and have an active membership with an association, like AMTA, to keep up to date with industry trends. Exact requirements depend upon the state in which the sports massage therapist practices.
Practice mindful meditation. The goal of mindful meditation is to focus your attention on things that are happening right now in the present moment. For example, listen to your body. Is your breathing fast, slow, deep, or shallow? Do you hear noises, such as traffic, or do you hear only silence? The idea is just to note what is happening without trying to change it.
Sounds great, right? But it has a critical flaw: the frustrebo effect, a “frustrated placebo,” caused by a lack of blinding. That is, everyone recruited for this study knew full well that it was a massage study … and so the folks assigned to the non-massage group were likely frustrated by that, which can cause a negative placebo effect People love massage, and being left out of it in this experiment would have been a bummer(plus they’re also suffering and actually hoping for help). And low back pain is notoriously sensitive to expectations! So this is a recipe for statistical disaster for the study: the massage patients are happier and the non-massage patients are less happy, and that could easily skew the results enough to explain away the modest benefits that Preyde supposedly found. And that would actually covert it into a negative study, finding confirmation of no effect of massage for back pain. And that was the sad conclusion reached by Dr. Lloyd Oppel in a short response paper for the Canadian Medical Association Journal: “this paper's most powerful findings indicate a lack of effect for massage therapy when compared with nonmassage controls.”42
I’m on a padded floor mat wearing loose pants and a T-shirt (standard Thai-massage garb) while Pailin Winotaka uses her fingers, palms, elbows, knees, feet, indeed her whole body as ballast, slowly getting me into such familiar yoga positions as “bridge” (a backward arch) and “bow” (on my stomach, reaching back to grab her wrists rather than my own ankles for a deeper stretch). I actually feel taller when she’s done.
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.
“Light a candle or two by your bed. Turn off the other lights. Stretch across your bed, taking your time, exaggerating your movements. Feel the cool sheets against your body. Moving slowly, open a book of poetry (or an uplifting…book), and slowly read a page. Allow the wisdom and beauty of what you are reading to enter your mind. Put the book aside. Take a minute to concentrate on the candle flame. Blow out the candle, and curl into peaceful sleep.”
We now offer Traditional Thai Massage and Thai Massage Combo. Traditional Thai massage uses no oils or lotions. The recipient remains clothed during a treatment. There is constant body contact between the giver and receiver, but rather than rubbing on muscles, the body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked. Thai stretches are often very similar to yoga poses. Back walking may be performed during a Thai massage as well. The Thai Combo massage uses a combination of Thai and American body work styles. First visit price is $65 for 1 hour and $100 for 1.5 hour.
Unfortunately, such massage therapists are quite rare. Most are poorly trained and uncertified. Most work in spas or resorts and on cruise ships, doing treatments that are infamously fluffy and skin deep, with little therapeutic value other than the comfort of a quiet hour of touching (even though many patients find skin-deep massage to be more annoying than anything else). Most of these therapists are earnest and view themselves as medical semi-professionals, despite their comparative lack of training. It’s actually inappropriate to call them “therapists” at all, and in some places (here) it’s actually illegal — they have to use terms like “bodyworker” or “masseuse.”
Ordinary massage is used in spas for relaxation. LA Sports Massage is a Sports Massage facility for athletes, not a spa. Sports Massage is detailed, focused, anatomically specific massage that targets and corrects your unique physical issues. We use a synergistic mix of Swedish, Shiatsu, Deep Tissue, Sports Massage, and much more. Whether you are a professional athlete nursing a chronic injury, a weekend warrior sore from overdoing it, or a mom with back pain from toting a toddler, Sports Massage can help you.
Trigger point masssage is still 100% experimental. It has rarely been directly tested and it has never been done well (and never for back pain specifically, which is probably of the greatest interest).78 If you squint optimistically, you could call the best of the evidence “promising.” You could say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But it’s like the smoke from last night’s campfire — more of a smokey smell than a smoke where any fire might be hiding. Dial up even a mild cynical impulse, and the evidence collectively looks more like a damning failure to produce any clearly good news.
BC 500 Jīvaka Komarabhācca, also known as Shivago Komarpaj, the founder of Traditional Thai massage (Nuad Boran) and Thai medicine. According to the Pāli Buddhist Canon, Jivaka was Shakyamuni Buddha's physician. He codified a healing system that combines acupressure, reflexology, and assisted yoga postures. Traditional Thai massage is generally based on a combination of Indian and Chinese traditions of medicine. Jivaka is known today as "Father Doctor" in Thailand.
We are creatures of habit and pattern, a strong property of the way the human nervous system functions. Every time we experience something, we are more likely to experience it the same way again in the future, because perception and sensation are so strongly built on expectations, especially threat assessment. That is, we tend to see and feel what we expect to see and feel, and we are particularly prone to expecting the worst (as a survival strategy). If our expectations are negative and fearful—as they often are, because life is harsh, and trauma is common—that then colours our experiences quite a bit. This is a very important principle in chronic pain, which routinely involves “central sensitization,” the brain-driven tendency to overreact to noxious stimuli — the ultimate clinically relevant example of a “sensory rut.” BACK TO TEXT
AD 1779: Frenchman Pierre-Martial Cibot publishes ‘Notice du Cong-fou des Bonzes Tao-see' also known as "The Cong-Fou of the Tao-Tse", a French language summary of medical techniques used by Taoist priests. According to Joseph Needhan, Cibot's work "was intended to present the physicists and physicians of Europe with a sketch of a system of medical gymnastics which they might like to adopt—or if they found it at fault they might be stimulated to invent something better. This work has long been regarded as of cardinal importance in the history of physiotherapy because it almost certainly influenced the Swedish founder of the modern phase of the art, Per Hendrik Ling. Cibot had studied at least one Chinese book, but also got much from a Christian neophyte who had become expert in the subject before his conversion."
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, up to 25 percent of American adults had a massage at least once during 2016-2017. And, they have a wide range of reasons for doing so. More and more people -- especially baby boomers -- recognize the health benefits of massage. They choose from among many massage styles to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.