For others, the notion of being in touch with their own needs and desires is totally alien, says Andrew. People who grew up in a family environment that centred around the needs of a sibling or a parent might have spent their whole lives never being asked about what they wanted to do. “It might genuinely be something they’ve never considered before,” she says. For those people, identifying something they might find enjoyably relaxing, and pursuing it, can be a huge, life-changing shift. “It can be quite dramatic.”
There is not necessarily a hard line between these two techniques, and many sessions often incorporate both depending on your needs. It is usually the case that not all the muscles in your body need deep tissue techniques applied. Rather than being overly concerned with choosing the “right” session, make sure you communicate to your therapist the goals for your session so that he or she can customize the right blend of techniques for you. One massage style is often the foundation of the session, with other techniques used as needed. Due to the slow pace of deep tissue massage it is necessary to schedule a 90-minute session if you would like your full body addressed. Use these guidelines for communication based on your primary goal for the session:
Deep tissue massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body, including the fascia and other supportive tissue that make up the muscles and joints. Compared to other popular massage techniques — including Swedish massage or acupressure, which tend to be lighter in pressure and can involve moving the body into certain positions — deep tissue massage is usually slower and firmer. (2)
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.
Forest baths have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels in multiple studies. Traditionally, we have a deep relationship with nature, but over the last few centuries we all have become increasingly disconnected from it. A walk through a forest will make you feel refreshed and provide a soothing effect so If you have one nearby, that’s great. If you don’t, go to your city park and spend some time in the midst of trees and other animals. Instant refreshment awaits you!
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.
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.
Massage detoxifies or flushes lactic acid from your muscles. Detoxification myths are among the most embarrassing of all massage myths. “Detoxification” sounds good and means little or nothing. There are such things as toxins in the world, but not only is massage unable to “flush” any that matter from the body, it likely produces a mildly toxic state known as rhabdomyolysis.58 But if you challenge massage therapists to name a “toxin” that they are “flushing,” most will name lactic acid, not rhabdomyolysis. And again, the truth is ironically the reverse of to the myth: evidence has actually shown that massage interferes with lactic acid elimination. See the lactic acid section below.
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.
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.
Excell within you! I keep that in mind all the time. When you enjoy whatever you are doing, certain magic occurs, certain energy flows through your hand or your word; and serendipity appears (that unexpected fantastic results). Me and Armando, my husband, we make a great team as we are both massage therapist; I also teach yoga, reiki, and meditation and Armando is also a personal trainer. We love service others to create harmony and balance physically, mentally and spiritually, so we can help each others to deal with daily life challenges and reach goals. ... View Profile
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“What is an ice cream walk? Great question. The process is pretty simple. Step one: exit your abode to go for a walk. Step two: walk toward an ice cream shop — any ice cream shop. Step three: order an ice cream. Step four: eat ice cream. Impromptu walks are one of my favorite ways to clear my head, but adding ice cream into the mix makes it feel like an intentional way of treating myself, literally and figuratively. I recommend Van Leeuwen if you happen to be ice cream-walking in NYC.”
Tightness matters. “You’re really tight” is a predictable phrase in massage therapy, but it’s mostly meaningless, or just illusory,50 and yet it is often the major rationale for therapy. Tissue texture correlates poorly with pain and other symptoms, and therapists have failed tests of detecting the painful side of low back or neck pain by feel51 — it’s actually an understandable and unimportant failure,52 but it also flies in the face of the popular mythology that therapists can zero in on tissue problems with uncanny accuracy. For more information, see You’re Really Tight.
Structural Integration's aim is to unwind the strain patterns in the body's myofascial system, restoring it to its natural balance, alignment, length, and ease. This is accomplished by hands-on manipulation, coupled with movement re-education. There are about 15 schools of Structural Integration as recognized by the International Association of Structural Integration, including the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute (with the brand Rolfing), Hellerwork, Guild for Structural Integration, Aston Patterning, Soma, and Kinesis Myofascial Integration.
Research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. “Create a playlist of songs or nature sounds (the ocean, a bubbling brook, birds chirping), and allow your mind to focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the piece,” Benninger says. You also can blow off steam by rocking out to more upbeat tunes -- or singing at the top of your lungs!
Sports Massage can be characterized two ways: pre-activity and post-activity massage. Pre-activity uses dynamic stretching to allow the connective tissue to work through a full range of motion, thereby reducing possible injury. Post-activity massage focuses on recovering the muscle tissue that may have been impacted doing the particular sport. It involves long strokes to flush out the toxins that causes soreness in the muscles and joints.
Craniosacral therapy is another classic example — popular for decades, it is a touch therapy, not “massage,” and it has never enjoyed any respect from the majority of doctors or scientists. It has even been criticized by many alternative health professionals.36 And yet it is sold with overconfidence by countless manual therapists as though it were proven effective.
Going to sleep on time and spending seven to nine hours in bed does not ensure that you get enough sleep. Using a sleep mask can help ensure that your brain recognizes 100% darkness so it releases powerful neurochemicals that help you go to sleep. You can also use earplugs if you are having trouble with noise in your surroundings. White noise, as from a fan or recording, can help, too.
So presenting lactic acid as some kind of metabolic bogeyman that massage can purge from the flesh is wrong on many levels. This is another nail in the coffin of the daft notion that massage “detoxifies,” and yet another reason to be suspicious of any therapist who talks about “detoxification” — as is sometimes unethically done to rationalize adverse effects of therapy that actually have other causes, including potentially serious conditions.69
Have you ever splashed cold water on your face and felt instantly refreshed? There’s a good reason for that because cold water helps with heart palpitations by making your system “reboot”. It’s a trick that you can apply a few times a day to keep yourself refreshed and stress-free and whenever you are feeling overwhelmed. It will also wake you up if you are too sleepy!
"When people assume that if they don't get to their to-dos, their world will fall apart, that needs to be questioned," says mindfulness expert Ellen Langer, PhD, professor of psychology at Harvard University. Reason with yourself: What's the worst that will happen if you don't declutter tonight? Five years from now, will you be happier that you excavated the coat closet or that you had coffee with a friend? Exactly.
So obviously (duh) this infographic was designed to score medical credibility points for massage, and research was cherry-picked to support that goal, and there wasn’t any chance that any discouraging words or science was going to make the cut! But it something like this will get applause from almost everyone who sees it, because people love to love massage, because massage is a lovely experience for all kinds of reasons.
According to a report by Ofcom this summer: “Most people in the UK are dependent on their digital devices and need a constant connection to the internet.” It found that 78% of us now own a smartphone – rising to 95% of 16- to 24-year-olds. We check these phones on average every 12 minutes of our waking lives, with 54% of us feeling that the devices interrupt our conversations with friends and family, and 43% of us feeling that we spend too much time online. We can’t relax with them, and we don’t know how to relax without them. Seven in 10 of us never turn them off.
Use affirmations to change your outlook on life and stop yourself from always jumping to negative conclusions. Affirmations are short, powerful statements that build you up and increase your confidence, helping you to expect positive outcomes. Be careful about the words you choose – the things you say about yourself over and over again will ensure that you believe your own rhetoric. Use positive, believable, and caring words about yourself.
Scientists theorize that things in our environment compete for the brain's attention. Essentially, the brain can only focus on a certain amount of input at once. Focusing on sensations other than tension and pain, or even introducing new sensations, can "close the gate" to pain. The pain doesn't go away, it just drops into the background. De-stress and counteract the downward pain spiral with these eight relaxation tips.
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.
It’s just a theory: no one knows if this is actually effective.11 However, it may explain why so many massage patients report a “gets a bit worse before it gets much better” response to quite painful treatments: motor end plates are (painfully) destroyed by strong pressures, and then that tissue is quite sensitive and a bit weak as it heals over a day or two … and then you finally feel much better after that!
A couple’s massage is a massage that you do with your partner, friend, or family member in the same room. It brings all the benefits of a regular massage and sometimes provides you with access to the spa’s hot tubs, saunas, and other facilities. Other treatments such as pedicures, facials, and body scrubs are sometimes offered as part of a package.
Deep tissue massages are usually “cross-grain,” moving against the muscles to relieve aches or pains rather than moving with them. This can sometimes feel a bit more painful as a result compared to standard “relaxation massages.” However, the pressure involved in deep massages is actually a good thing. It provides many of the benefits that this type of therapeutic massage has to offer. Deep tissue massages also tend to be slower-paced and longer than many other massages, ideally about 1.5 hours long, which gives bodily tissue enough time to warm up and then relax.
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.
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.
So what should runners book instead? Anna Gammal, a massage therapist who works with elite runners at the Boston Marathon each year and also massaged athletes at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, recommends either a sports massage (i.e. targeted therapeutic treatment for the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes) or a myofascial release massage (i.e. the application of gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissue restrictions). Both specifically target muscle release and will help improve flexibility, reduce pain and increase range of motion.
Beyonce, Blondie, or the Biebster, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If you’re in a public place (that isn’t the opera), just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females. Knight, W.E., Rickard, N.S. Monash University, Victoria, Australia. Journal of Music Therapy 2001;38(4):254-72.. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
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.”
Good massage therapists are the ones with more training and a bigger toolkit. They do what they can with the tools they judge to be the most useful, and they candidly discuss risks, benefits, evidence, and controversies. They don’t just pay lip service to humility as a general principle of alternative medicine — they make it a centerpiece, recognizing that they really are not trained enough to know much.
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.
This review of 35 tests of treatments for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is strongly consistent with my own past interpretations of the research: basically, nothing works. Massage is “slightly effective” but “its mean effect was too small to be of clinical relevance.” The evidence for cryotherapy, stretching, and low-intensity exercise is not promising, but technically still inconclusive: more study needed.
Full disclosure: I was a Registered Massage Therapist with a busy practice in downtown Vancouver from 2000–2010. Since then, I have made my living writing about musculoskeletal medicine and pain science, with a reputation for a skeptical perspective. This article is biased in the direction of debunking, but I also have a real soft spot for massage therapy, and still make a large percentage of my income from selling a book about trigger point therapy — a popular idea in massage that is maligned by many other skeptics (and with good reason). So I actually have competing, complicated biases. I try to compensate for them by sticking to what the evidence can support, and clearly identifying speculation and experimental therapy for what it is. BACK TO TEXT
Meditation is often seen as a great way to relax, and many studies back up that idea. In a meta-analysis looking at several studies of relaxation training in people with anxiety, the observed effects of meditation were greater than those observed for other intentional relaxation techniques, such as autogenic training (a process that involves making your body feel heavy and warm) and applied relaxation. Other studies have also outlined its effect as an anti-anxiety and antidepressant method.
Many studies done by the Touch Research Institute19 — although almost certainly of generally low quality and strongly biased in favour of massage20 — show many other broadly defined modest benefits to massage therapy in many circumstances — everything from rheumatoid (bad) arthritis21 to cancer22 to autism.23 In a recent study in Annals of Internal Medicine, both massage and ordinary, simple touching have been shown to help cancer patients — indicating that massage was helpful and yet unremarkable at the same time.24 (A more recent and better-designed Korean study was even more encouraging, showing that massage was quite a bit more helpful for patients with the deep, grinding pain of bone cancer than simply receiving compassionate attention.25)