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In Mexico massage therapists, called "sobadores", combine massage using oil or lotion with a form of acupuncture and faith. Sobadores are used to relieve digestive system problems as well as knee and back pain. Many of these therapists work out of the back of a truck, with just a curtain for privacy. By learning additional holistic healer's skills in addition to massage, the practitioner may become a curandero.
Relaxing is increasingly difficult in our always-on digital world. This first struck me a couple of years ago when I had to stop exercising after an injury. Exercise had always been my go-to “me-time” activity, and without it I felt totally lost. I recently started again, but having only one means to de-stress now feels very limited and I am not even sure it counts as relaxing – it is quite hard work, and inherently competitive. When I find myself at home with a free evening, I often have no idea what to do and inevitably end up staring emptily at one screen or another for hours, before stumbling off to bed, wondering where the time has gone.
My massage therapist has been doing massages for 30 years. He is really aggressive. I thought that I was going to die. The pain was so intense that I honestly feel that it was worse than having children. When the massage was complete, I felt relaxed. When I got home I felt exhausted, like I had been in a major accident. Truthfully I feel like crap. I ache from head to toe, what the heck is this? I feel absolutely horrible. I had a bath before bed and it did help somewhat. But this morning I still feel like hell …
But the relief model is certainly tempting. There are many painful-but-relieving analogies in medicine and biology.15 That’s similar to what good pain in massage feels like, but it’s not the same: no one thinks that lancing a boil or popping a shoulder joint back in is anything but painful while it’s happening.16 And we can’t necessarily take the good pain sensation at face value and assume it means there’s actually going to be a positive outcome. Brains are not all-knowing. Sometimes they see danger where there is none, and sometimes they see help where there is none.
I’ve often said that massage therapy research is in its early stages. And after thinking about that more today, I’ve realized it’s worse than that. Massage therapy research is stunted, and not showing signs that it is ready to progress. Some might disagree, and would point to the increasing number of massage therapy studies. (I’ve charted it myself in at least one paper I’ve published, and there is no doubt that the number of papers on the subject is increasing.) But I would counter by noting that there is no discussion in the field. The studies are conducted and published in isolation. They are not often being critiqued, and researchers with different theories and perspectives are not addressing each other in the literature or even at conferences.
Not the sit-and-zen-out type? Here's an exercise from Morgenstern that still gets you in the moment and out of your head: As you stroll, engage your senses. Note what you see (buildings with interesting shapes), what you hear (the rustling of leaves), and what you feel (the breeze on your face). Bonus points if you're out in nature; it's more likely to decrease rumination than being in an urban area, per a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
There are dozens of lines of evidence showing that structural treatment concepts of all kinds have failed to deliver the goods over the decades (see the structuralism article). But one recent large study of massage — the big back pain one described above (Cherkin) — produced particularly clear evidence that structuralist-style massage does not work. (And yet again, there’s an entire other article covering this in greater detail: the remainder of this section is just a summary.)
A licensed, traditional massage practitioner is required to complete at least 800 hours training. Massage therapists must acquire a professional license and must register at the Public Health Ministry's Department of Health Service Support (HSS). To qualify for a license, therapists must be trained in courses created by the HSS. The standard courses are provided free. Alternatively, students can go to one of the 181 schools nationwide approved to train therapists using standard HSS courses.
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.
In ashiatsu, the practitioner uses their feet to deliver treatment. The name comes from the Japanese, ashi for foot and atsu for pressure. This technique typically uses the heel, sesamoid, arch and/or whole plantar surface of foot, and offers large compression, tension and shear forces with less pressure than an elbow, and is ideal for large muscles, such as in thigh, or for long-duration upper trapezius compressions. Other manual therapy techniques using the feet to provide treatment include Keralite, Barefoot Lomi Lomi, Chavutti Thirumal.
I doubt that I personally know any skeptical massage therapists who aren’t already there, if they want to be, but I may have readers who qualify. Such skeptics are obviously a rarity in massage therapy, a profession notorious for attracting people with New Age and fringe science beliefs. The kind of people who would happily pay through the nose for tickets to see Deepak Chopra talk and think Mercola.com is a good source of health care information.
Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor, and close your eyes. Once you are settled and notice your breathing, inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold it for a count of 7, exhale through your mouth for a count of 8, and repeat. The pace doesn't matter, it should just be something that feels good to you. The key is having the exhale really stretch out much longer than the inhaling. Try and make the exhale smooth and have almost all of the air leave your body. Do it with the counting as long as you need to get the pace down before going to the next step. For me this takes a couple minutes.
It is hard to study what you can’t define … and it is extremely difficult to define massage precisely. Many possible questions arise! What kind of massage therapy? What methods? Could a combination of methods be effective where another combination fails? How well trained is the therapist? Are “advanced” techniques better than relaxation and Swedish techniques? Or maybe the basics are the basics because they really work? How much massage therapy? Could five sessions succeed where two would fail? Is one appointment “massage therapy,” or does it really need more? Could nine sessions actually be better still? Or perhaps counterproductive? Can anything be done with short sessions, or are long ones needed? If massage works, how much of the benefit can be attributed to non-massage elements like bedside manner, relaxation, and reassurance? How much do those factors define massage? What if massage didn’t work at all, or very poorly, without them? Would that mean “massage” works because it’s a great way of delivering a nice experience? Or that nice experiences “work” and the massage is irrelevant? What if massage therapy of a certain type for a specific condition was only effective 20% of the time? 60%? 80%? At what point is it “worth a shot”? (And worth the expense?)
Connective tissue stimulation. A lot of therapists are keen on stretching connective tissues — tendons, ligaments, and layers of Saran wrap-like tissue called “fascia.” I’m not a huge fan of this style, but certainly it’s a way of generating many potent and novel sensations, which may be inherently valuable to us — another form of touch. Although “improving” the fascia itself is implausible and unproven, perhaps fascial manipulations affect bodies indirectly, just as a sailboat is affected by pulling on its rigging. People have written whole books full of speculation along these lines. So, as long as the sensations are not like skin tearing (that’s an ugly pain for sure), you might choose to tolerate this kind of massage if it seems to be helping you.
I think it is more that they are circumspect than pessimistic. Speaking as a scientist, we are very careful to guard against declaring a finding if there is even a small risk of it being a false positive. We never want to say ‘we’ve found something’ and later have it turn out we were wrong when more data comes in. So, I think they are hewing to scientific norms in this regard, and I do not fault them for that; it is important to be careful in science.
This study evaluated the effectiveness of a 15-min. on-site massage while seated in a chair on reducing stress as indicated by blood pressure. 52 employed participants' blood pressures were measured before and after a 15-min. massage at work. Analysis showed a significant reduction in participants' systolic and diastolic blood pressure after receiving the massage although there was no control group.
The recipient wears loose, comfortable clothing and lies on a mat or firm mattress on the floor. In Thailand, a dozen or so subjects may be receiving massage simultaneously in one large room. The true ancient style of the massage requires that the massage be performed solo with just the giver and receiver. The receiver will be positioned in a variety of yoga-like positions during the course of the massage, that is also combined with deep static and rhythmic pressures.
When we're anxious and stressed, it can cause you to take shorter breaths, so by deliberately taking a series of deep ones, you can help increase the supply of oxygen to your brain.This, in turn, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes referred to as the "rest and digest system," because it's the part of the nervous system that slows heart rate, increases intestinal activity, and relaxes certain stomach muscles.
Like massages, chiropractic care can be beneficial for lowering pain and improving recovery. It’s also been shown to lower stress, headaches and more. One way that chiropractors help treat pain is by lowering mechanical compression and irritation of spinal joints, which can send nerve signals throughout the body that increase inflammation and irritation.
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There is always classical music. Some classical music can be rather intense, especially full symphonic music that was made in the 20th century such as Shostakovitch. To relax, it is best to listen to solo instruments or smaller ensemble classical music, such as music from the Baroque and Classical periods (for example Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi).
Other people like to write down what they’re grateful for, Kaplin said. This is especially helpful for relaxing. “When we’re stressed, we tend to focus on everything that is going wrong, which makes it even harder to unwind,” said Natasha Lindor, a coach and founder of The AND Factor who helps professionals have a successful career while working less and living more. She suggested writing down the top three good things that happen to you today.
Tests of overall effectiveness (clinical trials) are not difficult to cook up in principle: just take a hundred people with a certain kind of problem, give some kind of reasonably appropriate massage to fifty of them, give a neutral treatment to the other fifty, record the results, and report them. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to detect what should be a reasonably strong effect — if those massaged 50 people aren’t better off, how good can massage be? A great deal more precision is required to answer exactly what kind of massage works how well for what — more on that in a moment — but in broad strokes, it’s not a difficult problem. Not in principle. BACK TO TEXT
We cannot trust our eyes, or our pain. Pain is a lot like these amazing illusions — that is, it is warped by our expectations and point of view (see Pain is Weird). Unlike these clever models, though, we can’t turn it around to see what’s really going on. And trying to see through the illusion, trying to believe that there’s nothing much actually wrong with our tissues (often true), is even more difficult than seeing through these illusions. But that challenge is what recovery is all about: trying to change our expectations and point of view with interesting new sensations and movements. Massage therapy may be one of the very best sources of the sensory data needed to change our perspective. BACK TO TEXT
Massage may be an appropriate technique for helping certain sports injuries, especially muscle injuries, to heal. When treating an injury, however, it is best to seek advice from a qualified sports therapist or a specialist in sports medicine before performing any massage. Certain ligament and joint injuries that need immobilization and expert attention may be aggravated by massage.